Tuesday, November 23, 2010

UNIT 2: The Gospel on Mars Hill: foundations for a Christian worldview, and for culture- transforming service

 FOCUS: The gospel on Mars Hill:  Ac 17, 1 Cor 1 - 2 & 15, with Rom 1 - 2 . . . confronting skeptical worldviews, ways of life, power structures, cultures & communities not  grounded in the Creator. Warranted credible truths, comparative difficulties & worldview choice. Atheism, agnosticism, evolutionary materialism, the problems of good and evil, generic theism and Bible-based covenantal theism.  1 Cor 15:1 – 11, historical credibility, minimal facts, prophetic context [esp. Is. 53, 44: 7 - 8, warrant of OT through prophetic power]. Surrender to the Lord of Life & Saviour, discipleship and reformation.


 --> Dan Brown (a case) & corrective argument
 --> The Seven Mountains of Influence/commanding heights culture mapping strategy
--->  Ac 27, Fair Havens, so, manipulation vs propetic leadership in community and state 
--> First duties of reason (per Cicero et al)

Climbing Mars Hill

A warranted first step to theism: design not "designoid"

--> The scientific, empirical/inductive inference to design in nature

Building a Worldview: first principles and first truths

--> Turtles, all the way doooown . . . 

--> Schaeffer and "taking the roof off" of an entrenched world system

--> The W J Murray concerns on the required basis for reasoned dialogue

--> Warranted, Credible (self-evident) Truths and First Principles of Right Reason

--> Of brains, consciousness & computers 

-->  First principles of right reason

--> A valid (investigatory) principle of sufficient reason, cause & being -- possible/ impossible, contingent/ necessary

--> God as a serious (& successful) candidate necessary being 
Dealing with the issue of good and evil 

--> The challenge of morality (is it objective? So, too, roots of law in our morally governed nature)

--> Paul, Locke, Hooker and a list of manifestly evident core principles of the natural moral law

--> The natural law: laying out a creation-order, naturally evident framework for just civil law in community 

--> Living in a moral (or intellectual) Plato's Cave 

Biblical theism: "just the facts . . . "

Christian discipleship and cultural transformation

--> The seven mountains view of the fullness of Christ challenge 

--> History, the roots and rise of "Christendom"

--> A modified, Schaeffer-based analysis of Western Civilisation

--> Ministry & reformation leadership below the line of despair 

--> The Paul-led Christian Synthesis of Jerusalem, Athens & Rome

--> On Art and Aesthetics 


INTRODUCTION: We live in a hyper-skeptical age, where -- as was noted in the preliminary remarks for this course:

. . . we are now in the age of Google, YouTube, blogs and other freely accessible web soap-box and forum technologies, Dan Brown and his The Da Vinci Code, the vituperative New Atheists, Radical IslamISTS, and many others.

As a result, we now face a flood of superficially persuasive and atmosphere-poisoning materials that target God, the Scriptures, Jesus, the Christian Faith and Christians today (including personal hate and slander sites) and much more. This backs up an unprecedented and rising tidal wave of direct and undermining attacks against the Christian faith in the Caribbean and elsewhere that we can find on our streets, on our verandahs, on our TV's and computers, in our schools and offices, and even in our churches.

A flood of attacks that finds us too often in a sad spiritual condition, and by and large utterly unprepared to soundly answer on the reason for the hope that we have:
The two tidal wave threats to the Christian faith in the Caribbean

In such a time as this, it is no longer enough to simply know the content of the gospel or the scriptures, and to rest content in our personal experience of life-changing encounter with God. 

For -- and it bears repetition -- all around us, the gospel, the God of the Bible, the Christian Faith, the churches and even individual Christians are under relentless, manipulative, tainting and too often hateful attack. Attacks, that are armed with superficially persuasive and too often viciously and maliciously toxic (and often slanderous, bigotry-driven) talking points that are free for a search and download; all across the Internet. Attacks, that are  often carried forward with zeal and anger by people who imagine that they are thereby enlightening and liberating themselves and others from a bondage of abusive, destructive, tyrannical . . . even, Fascist . . . superstition. Failing, to realise that instead, refusal to acknowledge God darkens heart and mind, undermines the built-in moral government (and so, basic truth-oriented functionality . . . ) of the very reason they pride themselves in and instead ironically ends in deepest en-darkenment, folly, debasing of mind and addictive lawlessness; wreaking havoc in one's soul, life, families, the community, culture and civilisation

Hence, the force of the apostle's counsel:

 Eph 4:17 So this I say, and solemnly affirm together with the Lord [as in His presence], that you must no longer live as the [unbelieving] Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds [and in the foolishness and emptiness of their souls] [--> culture-wide breakdown of sound reason], 18 for their [moral] understanding is darkened and their reasoning is clouded; [they are] alienated and self-banished from the life of God [with no share in it; this is] because of the [willful] ignorance and spiritual blindness that is [deep-seated] within them, because of the hardness and insensitivity of their heart. [--> points to the moral government of reasoning so conscence-numbing undermines rational thought. A conscience-deadened culture is deeply irrational and deceived, imagining itself wise it becomes pervasively foolish, cf. Rom 1:18 - 32]

19 And they, [the ungodly in their spiritual apathy], having become callous and unfeeling, have given themselves over [as prey] to unbridled sensuality, eagerly craving the practice of every kind of impurity [that their desires may demand]. [--> addicted to ever more grossly sensual escalating indulgence, perhaps partly to compensate for growing numbness. See drugs addiction, drunkenness, thrill-seeking, habitual gambling and sexual perversities as typical addictions]

  20 But you did not learn Christ in this way! 

  21 If in fact you have [really] heard Him and have been taught by Him, just as truth is in Jesus [revealed in His life and personified in Him] [--> anchored to He who is truth himself, with ethical, life transforming dimensions], 22 that, regarding your previous way of life, you put off your old self [completely discard your former nature], which is being corrupted through deceitful desires [--> notice, corrupting, deceitful desires], 23 and be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], 24 and put on the new self [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image, [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation]. [AMP]

Similarly, we must emphasise the priority of well-founded, on- the- ground facts of truth that firmly anchor the gospel to reality; facts put on the table by core witnesses at the cost of their lives and passed down to us at equally horrific cost, in a sound chain of custody down to the invention of printing; where the FIRST book printed by Gutenberg was the Bible, still the all-time most widely printed and circulated book. For capital example, here is Peter, facing judicial murder by Nero on a patently false charge of treasonous arson against Rome -- the July 18, 64 AD fire (most likely an accident) -- in his theological will:

2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

  17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,[i] with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. [--> he speaks to the transfiguration]

[We may freely supplement from the official testimony of 35 - 38 AD, reported  in  AD 55 in 1 Cor 15, listing Peter as first official witness to the resurrection and giving the core gospel facts, "which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast":

"For I [Paul] delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: 

- that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 

that he was buried, 

- that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and 

- that he appeared to Cephas [= Peter], then to the twelve. 

 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. [--> the 500 unbreakable witnesses] Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

  11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed."]

19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 

21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [ESV]

These themes, truths and facts are further summarised in the almost poetic opening words of Hebrews (which echo John 1, Rom 1, Col 1 also):

 Heb 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 

 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high . . . [ESV]

 Note, "we did not follow cleverly devised myths," and that the core facts grounding the truth of the gospel and our faith  are a fulfillment of prophecies of scripture given centuries beforehand, with of course the then 700 year old Is 52:13 to 53:21 (as discussed in Unit 1) in the forefront; a prophetic text that also teaches us much on the theology of redemption through the slain, risen Lamb of God. Unsurprisingly, then, the anti-Christian, anti-gospel hyperskepticism of our day desperately tries to invert these facts and truths into perceived myths, "pious frauds" and falsities.

For first example, at the start of his best-selling . . . and widely praised . . . novel, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown wrote "FACT: . . . All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." But, on fair comment, we can briefly mark-up his fact claims about alleged events of 300 years on after the actual C1 foundations of the gospel (and so, too, of our faith "once for all delivered to the saints" [Jude v. 3]), exposing a gross strawman fallacy:

And, in many cases, even when such toxic talking points fail to actually persuade, they so poison and polarise the atmosphere that it is very hard for people to listen to or share the Good News of Jesus and the reason for our hope in him. Many will also be led to become demoralised, ashamed and intimidated, doubting the credibility of the gospel and the basic positive value of Christian faith and discipleship. (Cf. what far too often happens with widely used, celebrated and even award-winning books for children -- including "young adults" of 12 - 18 --  here. Books that may well be in taxpayer-funded schools, in school libraries and in public libraries. And yes, commercial publishing is a prolonged complex process with many review points; there is no way this anti-christian, snide, often pornographic and vulgar moral undermining and desensitisation . . . even, outright grooming for pedophilic predators . . . of the young is not being done quite deliberately and in hope of profits.) 

So, the gospel is being deliberately widely silenced, dismissed, stigmatised and marginalised, opening the way for a tidal wave of apostasy, heart-hardened, conscience benumbed immorality -- or outright amorality -- and spiritual ruin. 

Which, is part of the obvious strategic level intent of key antagonists. 

Divide and dominate, is, after all, proverbial.

For, too,  as Aristotle so tellingly warned 2,300 years ago in his The Rhetoric, Bk I Ch 2, hostile or poisoned emotions, once stirred, can utterly warp our judgement:

Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [ethos]; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [pathos]; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself [logos]. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible . . . Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. Our judgements when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile . . . Thirdly, persuasion is effected through the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question . . . [Ari, The Rhetoric, Bk I Ch 2]

We may summarise as the . . . 

 Warping effect: our emotions, perceptions, inclinations, desires, loyalties,  assumptions, biases, indoctrination, knowledge gaps, cultural background and other influences can . . . and, too often, do . . . distort our ability to soundly, prudently, fairly evaluate issues, arguments, circumstances, people etc. So, one of our challenges is to learn how to rebalance our thinking towards accuracy, fairness, rightly reasoning and appropriately valuing and respecting [without becoming naive and gullible], etc.

Also, let us note, Aristotle's wider point:

 Argument Principle: arguments work by one or more of the appeals to (a) emotions [pathos], (b) credibility of an authority or presenter [ethos], or to (c) the actual meat of facts and reasoning [logos],

As a direct result of such challenges and the willful creation of an increasingly toxic situation, we desperately need to equip a much broader base of people in the churches at a much higher level of understanding and balanced living out of the gospel, the Scriptures, theology and issues

If, we are to be credible, sound, competent and effective. 

 Not, just in "evangelism," as pivotal and valuable as that is. For, Eph 4:9 - 10 is quite clear that Jesus came, descending and ascending IN ORDER TO fill, thus transform, τα πάντα (ta panta) . . . "all things." (Which further implies that this unit also needs to be a bit like DNA, a store of key information that supports the span of vital processes for life, so it will be wide-ranging if not encyclopedic, reflecting now (c. Oct 1st 2021) a decade of engagement with skeptics.)

Clearly, from Eph 4,  while it is vital, the salvation of souls and transformation of life cannot soundly be isolated from our being a part of a community, a culture, a civilisation. The gospel is about transformative truth, a sound understanding of and proper response  to foundational reality, a truth that transforms through its integral ethics of Jesus, the ethics of discipleship and the power of the indwelling, renewing Spirit, who flows forth from within in streams of living water. Which, must be brought in touch with the concerns, trends and issues of a community, to be recognised as relevant and worth positive attention, without which it will be brushed aside. Where, too, we are reminded in Ac 17:31, Jesus  is the one "appointed" to "judge the world in righteousness"; of which, proof has been given to all men -- note, universality -- by his resurrection from the dead [with 500 unstoppable witnesses]. Repentance is then therefore commanded of all men [v. 30] as the days of ignorance are over

Repentance, demanding growing renewal of mind, correction of errors and wrongs/sins, and reformation of life, day by day, step by step, towards living the truth in love, holy Spirit-filled  power and purity. All of which are profoundly ethical and naturally flow out from individual to family, church, community and civilisation as streams of living, refreshing, cleansing water.

So, we must engage barriers to recognising, acknowledging, yielding to and being transformed by that foundational truth, starting with how we set out to understand ourselves in our world and how such understandings lead us to live, setting up the powerful flow of a culture that carries ever so many souls along with it. For, in the end, the gospel is the gospel of the realm -- kingdom -- of God, acting through our once crucified, now risen Lord and Saviour Jesus

And so, as a church we must understand, know and demonstrate that kingdom in ever growing measure, a counter-culture of transforming truth, love, godly power and purity that opens up God's blessings to the nations. Including, healing for our whip-scarred souls here in the Caribbean.

Indeed, we must never forget Jesus' exchange with Procurator Pontius Pilate in John 18:37: “So you are a king?" 

To which the immortal reply of our King, was:  “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate's notoriously cynical retort immediately comes, in v. 38, “What is truth?”  Of course, He who is Truth Himself stood before that fatally truth-blind governor, and we ever hear, "thy Word is truth." That is why, too, 1 Peter 3:15 ever reminds us, that we must be prepared to answer soundly and civilly as to the reason for the hope we have.

Such a challenge also means and demands that as we set out to study systematic theology, we have to equip people to think through and lay a sound worldviews foundation, the main focal issue for this unit. A worldview, being "The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world."

In more popular terms, a worldview can "shade" reality, similar to the way variously tinted dark glasses do:

Shading reality . . .

The Overton Window marks out
political possibilities and what is seen
as extreme or nonsense. So, we
ask, what happens to a community's
possibilities when the credible truth and
power of the gospel become widely

Where, our worldviews subtly shape our approach to life, learning, major institutional pillars of society, what seems plausible to us (so, how we respond to or resist the gospel and its linked gospel ethics), where politics and policy go  -- the infamous Overton Window -- and in turn the soundness of what we do influences the long term viability of our civilisation. Even more important, our receptivity to the gospel has eternal consequences. We have it on good authority: what is a man profited if he gains the whole world but loses his soul.


And yes, such is an extension of a duty that the apostle Peter clearly enjoins on all Christian believers in 1 Peter 3:15:

To give a sound defence informed by worldviews issues (as we now need), it is advantageous for us to pause and briefly reckon with the issue of conviction and credible persuasive arguments and grounds that rightly build conviction and trust [i.e., faith], in a world where utter certainty beyond possibility of error is hard to come by. That is, we are here speaking to the issue of credible, responsible rhetorical proof and associated conviction-building. 

(And yes, rhetoric -- the art of persuasion -- is not inevitably irresponsible; it only sometimes seems that way. Also, pardon some new, technical terminology; we need new words to house new ideas.)

As Richard Nordquist summarises:

In rhetoric, [the] proof is the part of a speech or written composition that sets out the arguments in support of a thesis. Also known as confirmation, confirmatio, pistis, and probatio. In classical rhetoric, the three modes of rhetorical (or artistic) proof are ethos, pathos, and logos. At the heart of Aristotle's theory of logical proof is the rhetorical syllogism or enthymeme.
This is reflected in a key part of Paul's theological will, written to Timothy shortly before his martyrdom, most likely c. 67 - 68 AD:
2 Tim 3:10 Now you have diligently followed [my example, that is] my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith [= πίστει -- pistei, belief], patience, love, steadfastness, 11 persecutions, and sufferings—such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, but the Lord rescued me from them all!

  12 Indeed, all who delight in pursuing righteousness and are determined to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be hunted and persecuted [because of their faith].

  13 But evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. [--> notice, implied abuse of the persuasive power of words; rhetoric is very much a double-edged sword, contrast 2 Cor 4:1 - 7]

  14 But as for you, continue in the things that you have learned and of which you are convinced [holding tightly to the truths] [= επιστώθης -- epistothes, were trustworthy], knowing from whom you learned them, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings (Hebrew Scriptures) which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith [= πίστεως -- pisteos, belief,] which is in Christ Jesus [surrendering your entire self to Him and having absolute confidence in His wisdom, power and goodness].

  16 All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction [--> which involves warrant], for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; 17 so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work. [AMP]
Good warrant, grounding sound conviction and trust in Christ; rooted in "the reason for the hope we have," in short, is a core facet of faith in the New Testament sense. [See 1 Peter 3:15 - 16, cf 2 Peter 1:16 - 21.] 

Or, in the classical language of the Reformers, Faith in the New Testament sense involves three components, notitia, assensus, fiducia. Where, as William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland explain in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (IVP, 2003),
  • notitia = "understanding the content of the Christian faith"
  • assensus = "the assent of the intellect to the truth of some proposition"
  • fiducia = "trust" [p. 18]

Enthymemes, are new terminology for most of us. Classically, they are syllogisms with a suppressed term, e.g. Socrates is a man, so he is mortal implies acceptance of the premise that all men are mortal. Where, that (often unconscious) involvement of the audience in providing the implicit premise multiplies both stylistic impact and persuasive power. Linked, is 


A smoke detector works as a fire alarm, as smoke is a strong sign of
fire where it should not be
; this is also a picture that shows a key
point (while the rising smoke suggests a story), and it
is an instructive example. All of this is also inductive
, making a conclusion more plausible
("probable") by presenting evidence that supports -- as
opposed to, logically entails -- it: the "best explanation"
for a rising plume of smoke is a fire.
  • the circumstance where a premise is represented by a closely associated sign (which needs not be absolutely connected as a fact), such as smoke and fire. Likewise,
  •  as "seeing is believing," a visual picture or a painted word-picture can be powerfully persuasive, as the audience is led to "fill in the blanks" whilst "seeing is believing." Where,
  • a story is both memorable and often powerfully appealing, hence the power of eyewitness testimony, celebrity endorsements, drama (an acted out story), video, historical or newspaper narratives and parables.  Another powerful lever of persuasion, is
  • the provision of an instructive example or paradigmatic case that illustrates or warrants a point by an actual case study that marks an instance of the wider rule. 
  • More generally, in the modern sense, inductive reasoning from cases considered invites inference of an underlying pattern or rule, also lending it plausibility.

All of these and more, for good or ill, help to shape our worldviews, convictions and cultural agendas. Where, we can further roughly define, that a worldview is a plausibility structure, a narrative, a story of how the world seems to be. Thus, it is a way for us to try to make sense of reality as we understand it.

Spiritual warfare, NB 2 Cor 10: "For the
weapons of our warfare are not of
the flesh but have divine power
to destroy strongholds.
We destroy
arguments and every lofty opinion
raised against the knowledge
of God, and take every thought
captive to obey Christ . . .

So, too, the battle for message-/ narrative- domination will thus be pivotal in the power struggle that shapes the agenda for a community.  Where, of course, a power struggle implies hostile power brokers entrenched in strongholds and hostile to the spreading acceptance of gospel truth. Some of this is through visible power classes (which, nowadays, may in part be nominally Christian . . . ), most is their equally real but invisible spiritual backers, the principalities and powers of darkness in the high places of Scripture. That easily explains the toxic, deceit-riddled, confusing, polarised atmosphere we face.  In turn, that community agenda shaped by dominant messages will be a strong current that sweeps up many, many souls that tend to "go with the flow."

Therefore, let us heed some sobering words from our Lord, in the world-famous Sermon on the Mount. Words, given, as he warned against a divided mind that tries to serve God and Money as a god, Mammon:
Matt 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so if your eye is clear [spiritually perceptive], your whole body will be full of light [benefiting from God’s precepts]. 23 But if your eye is bad [spiritually blind], your whole body will be full of darkness [devoid of God’s precepts]. So if the [very] light inside you [your inner self, your heart, your conscience] is darkness, how great and terrible is that darkness! [AMP. NB: This strongly echoes and answers Plato's parable of the cave.]
It may thus be helpful, to look at a picture -- yes, again, a picture! -- of how a worldview and cultural agenda (too often, rooted in falsities, evils and fallacies . . . ) can dominate and shape a community. We will do so by using a generic, adapted form of the "seven mountains/pillars of influence" framework popularised in recent years by Lance Wallnau of the USA, but apparently tracing to an analysis in 1975 by Bill Bright [Campus Crusade], Loren Cunningham [YWAM] and Francis Schaeffer [L'Abri]:

 In pillars of influence, equivalent form:


What REALLY is the 7 Mountain Message? from Os Hillman on Vimeo.

Some may doubt the validity of such a mountains/pillars of influence society mapping model, so let us immediately post a similar model (using a tree structure) from a lecture:

The two have different foci but are so obviously related that if the one is valid enough to speak about social patterns, structures and institutions, manifestly the other is, too. 

Such a mapping model is valid and that validity supports analysis and work towards sound reformation.

Where, from a Biblical perspective, the incident at Fair Havens in Ac 27 allows us to further see how relevant the seven mountains/pillars picture is as a framework for analysis -- a model or "map" of community influences in action. The map is of course proverbially NOT the territory, but it can be a most useful guide to understanding and navigating in  it. In this case, a map, which will equip us to analyse and plan not only for AD 59 but for our time 2000 years later

This case (especially in light of Plato's influential parable of the ship of state . . . ), may also help those who may be inclined to view the mountains/pillars of influence model as at best a sub-scriptural, faddish notion:

Ac 27:and hugging the shore with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea [on the south side of Crete].
Now much time had been lost, and [b]navigation was dangerous, because even [the time for] the fast (Day of Atonement) was already over, so Paul began to strongly warn them, 10 saying, “Men, I sense [after careful thought and observation] that this voyage will certainly be a disaster and with great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 However, the centurion [Julius, ranking officer on board] was persuaded by the pilot and the owner of the ship rather than by what Paul said. 12 Because the harbor was not well situated for wintering, *the majority [of the sailors (--> see as asterisked, please)] decided to put to sea from there, hoping somehow to reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete facing southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.

13 So when the south wind blew softly, thinking that they had obtained their goal, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, hugging the coast. 
[--> a thought, how many days would it take to walk or go to Phoenix by animal drawn road transport? Three or four? Of course, that may have been taken as abandoning the ship, no money back for you. Though, it could have been arranged to walk to the town, even if the ship was sailing. This further suggests that the passengers were likely persuaded that the 40 mile sail was low risk, an afternoon's good sailing.]

14 But soon afterward a violent wind, called Euraquilo [a northeaster, a tempestuous windstorm like a typhoon], came rushing down from the island; 15 and when the ship was caught in it and could not head against the wind [to gain stability], we gave up and [letting her drift] were driven along. [AMP. *NB, I suspect that if Paul -- a passenger, a Jew and a prisoner -- was party to the consultations, it was not just the crew involved. In that case, "the majority" would logically include the passengers also. We can profitably discuss here, "democracy vs. de-mock-racy" and the challenge of voyages of folly.]

Yet another picture, here, a chart or diagram that maps out a flow
of possibilities (along a "business as usual" Path, BAU),
a decision and a warning from an expert. Yes, though he
literally has a worse reputation than the devil's, an expert.
We may see (with help also of the window of opportunity for  change diagram):
  • This was a literal debate between a business as usual agenda championed by powerful centres of influence and a more prudent, more sustainable alternative
  • The ship was part of the merchant fleet bringing wheat from Egypt to Rome, for the bread part of the notorious "bread and circuses" used to appease the idle masses
  • The trade was based on understanding of key scientific facts such as geography, climate, weather, seas, stars (for navigation) and the technical arts and sciences of sea-borne trade
  • Phoenix, the preferred wintering harbour, was perhaps 40 miles onward by sea, so maybe 60 miles by road; we here see the competing issues of relative convenience and relative safety, thus preferences and price points in markets. Where, initial price, with risk factored in, may yield a very different likely cost than at first seems so. (We have a case where several days of inconvenient and perhaps difficult walking were in the end exchanged for the high risk of death and large losses associated with a shipwreck. Even if banditry was an issue, nearly 300 people are not a likely target for ordinary gangs.)
  • Business and moneyed interests were at work, and clearly the Sailing Master ("pilot") was bought and paid for
  • The state-connected art of rhetoric (which is also directly connected to literature and drama) played a key role in decision-making
  • The media were present in the person of Luke, who made what was then a fresh, first draft of history report which has been influential for the ages.
  • The Messenger Corps Centurion acted in a governmental role, and there clearly was a democratic voice (and maybe even a vote)
  • The challenge of moneyed manipulation of experts and government, swaying people to indulge a march of folly is blatant
  • For example, reading between lines, if someone were to say I am getting off here at Lasea, obviously, s/he was not going to get money back! Money being much harder to come by in that day, that would be a strong motive indeed to stick with the ship
  • Then, bring on the counsels of the "experts" on how a quick 40 mile afternoon sail that would get to a much better place would not be particularly risky, and ponder how that would then sway opinions
  • Especially, when that Jew-in-chains in the midst arguing against the "egg-spurts" was even rejected by his own widely despised people
  • Of course, in the short term business as usual easily won the day and things seemed to go right at first, until the march of folly managed to go over the cliff
  • Education and family background were obviously foundational, shaping factors
  • There was also a clash of religions, linked worldviews and ideologies: Jews were despised by Pagans and Christians met much the same disdain
  • However, once things had gone over the cliff due to march of folly, a prophetic steering word suddenly had a lot more credibility.



 Similarly, if we glance at The Revelation, Chs 13 and 18, we may equally note how readily the model gives us insights regarding end of days power systems hostile to the gospel:

  •  The beast from the sea [of restless peoples] of 13:1 - 4 fuses cultural heritage from former empires envisioned by Daniel [Cf. Dan 7] as also rising from the sea and has a governmental and religious but blasphemous character.
  • In vv 5 - 9, it is spoken of as a world empire perhaps personified in a false, blasphemous political messiah, with strong echoes of Rome and of Nero, the first Emperor to by policy persecute the Faith.
  • In vv 11 - 15, the second, wonder-working beast from the earth [The Holy Land?] leads in deceiving the nations, publishing the false system and its idolatry, co-opting the arts, culture and religion, possibly with science and technology to animate the idol. It thus leads in false religion and seems to serve as Prime Minister or at least Executive Officer.
  • In the notorious vv. 16 - 17, we read how the second beast "causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave,  to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name." 
  • This clearly marks government control of economic activity, tied into a blasphemous religious system.
  • The equally notorious number of the beast in v. 18, of course, is a code for Nero Ceasar, a counterfeit god and false political messiah figure who demands what belongs to God alone, our souls.
  • In that context, let us note from 17:9, "the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated,"  given v. 3: "I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns" with the note in v. 5, that the name on her forehead is "Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations."
  • In ch 18, v. 3, in reflecting on the fall of "Babylon" -- Rome, or some extension thereof (so also, a globe-dominating, anti-Christ, debauched Civilisation tracing to Rome) -- by blazing fire, we see how kings and merchants gain wealth from corrupt, specifically sexually immoral luxury and debauchery. 
  • Note, this clearly echoes and amplifies the fire of Rome of July 18, 64 AD, which led Nero to pick Christians as scapegoats and persecute them.
  • No wonder, God's people are called to a holy counter-culture strategy, v. 4: "Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues."
  • The summary of the weeping merchants of evil luxury, vv. 11 - 13, is telling: 
"[T]he merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls."
  • They are joined by the technicians, in vv 17 - 18: "shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18 and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning."
  • In v 22, the artistic crafts of entertainment are brought in, for: "the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters will be heard in you no more."
  • Likewise, for the humbler workaday trades and industries: "a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more, and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more."
  • Capping off, the family as generational bridge to the future will be cut off: "the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more."
Here, again, the seven mountains naturally emerge as the dynamics of a civilisation are laid out in order to make a prophetic critique and pronouncement of latterday judgement.

Clearly, then,  the seven mountains framework fits in quite naturally with scripture [and with common sense, too]. So, it helps us to analyse and understand what is going on in a fairly comprehensive, balanced, useful way. It will therefore prove quite useful as we contemplate inviting the nations to take up a Godly, reformation alternative in a moment of kairos -- pivotal, decisive time.

This includes the Four R's of Reformation:
R1 Repentance: True revivals start here.  As we repent, we "put off [our] old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires . . . [and will] be made new in the attitude of [our] minds . . . put[ting] on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."  [Eph. 4:18, 20 - 24.]

R2 Renewal: this is the living out of repentance as we learn and live by the light of God’s word and the power of God’s Spirit. "Don't let the world squeeze you into its mould.  Instead, be transformed from within by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is."

R3 Revival, proper: the pouring out of God's Spirit in times of refreshing.  Thus, we receive anointed power from God to walk in good works in the face of a deceived, corrupt world. "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people," so we are called to "Repent . . . and turn to God, so that [our] sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord." 
R4 Reformation: the transformation of a community, its institutions and culture under the impact of the Lordship of Jesus as those who surrender to him fill their lives and ways with his fulness.  Of course, this threatens those who draw pleasure and power from sin (or even make their living from it), so revivals will also face persecution.
 It is not just about "ivory tower" academic debates over "apologetics" issues, anymore!

 In all of this,  "foundations" (a characteristic New Testament word for laying a solid basis for thought, attitude, motivation and life, and building on it . . . ) shows just how radical -- that word comes from the Latin radix, root -- the Christian Faith really is.   

For, just as how the Athenians in Acts 17 wanted to hear "the latest ideas" but were by and large not open to a truly back- to- foundations and look- at- the fatal- cracks critique, avant garde thinkers in our day really want to hear the latest wrinkles and innovations within the comfortable World System of the day. 

They want to discuss some new Ptolemaic epicycle, not a Copernican or Galilean, back- to- basics revolutionary idea that threatens their comfortable system. And don't you dare come along threatening to "box bread out of our mouths" by upending the system and rendering their expertise obsolete. (No wonder, knowledge revolutions so often proceed one funeral at a time, as one generation locked into the old way dies off and a new one emerges that is open to the new way.)

So, the message of the gospel -- warranted by the credible history of Jesus and the power of the Spirit who breaks through in those who penitently heed it -- will do again just what Paul did 1960 years ago:   
Foundational cracks and causes
a powerful metaphor (HT: Freeman)

Step 1:
Point of cultural contact:
start from something, some altar, some artifact, some inscription, something that inadvertently reflects the pivotal underlying problem.
Step 2: Foundational analysis:  it will go to the roots and expose their rottenness, it will dig up a bit of the foundations and expose fatal structural cracks. 
Step 3: Call for transformation: it will call for a sounder foundation, 
. . . as Jesus did at the close of the Sermon on the Mount:
 Matt 7:24 “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!” [NET]
So also, we must be prepared for the response of amazement or puzzlement: 
Matt 7:28 When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed by his teaching, 29 because he taught them like one who had authority, not like their experts in the law. [NET]
In short, he cut clean across the traditions and the "Rabbi [Expert] X says, Rabbi [Expert] Y says, and so we have the right pedigree." No wonder, the upended experts, frequently, were less than amused. 

So also with Paul, when he reached the cutting point in his presentation at Mars Hill. The resurrection of Jesus with 500+ eyewitnesses. Foolishness to many Greeks locked into a view that saw the body as the prison of the soul, and an offense to the Jews who saw a crucified man as necessarily accursed by God. Hence the interruption and reaction:
Acts 17: 29 [Paul:] ". . . since we are God’s offspring, we should not think the deity is like gold or silver or stone, an image made by human skill and imagination. 30 Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
32 Now when they heard about the resurrection from the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul left the Areopagus. 34 But some people joined him and believed. Among them were Dionysius, who was a member of the Areopagus, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. [NET]
But, as those few who responded found out, when the storm comes, God's "foolishness," apparent weakness and strangeness will prove to be plainly wiser, stronger, sounder than the ways of men. Do we really think we are smarter than God? (See why the strawman game is to dismiss God then belittle, stigmatise and scapegoat those who speak from his word?)

  In particular, in our day, we can see that science -- the major intellectual movement in our civilisation, is often dominated by an imposed materialism. An ideology, that was all too aptly summarised as follows by a major proponent, Professor Richard Lewontin, an evolutionary biologist of Harvard University:
. . .  It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [“Billions and Billions of Demons,” NYRB, January 9, 1997. (NB: a priori means the claim is imposed before the facts are allowed to speak Cf. critical survey here. Also note how Sci Fi writer, former atheist and Catholic thinker John C Wright develops his assessment of the always- relevant- to- the- Caribbean American scene here. Note, much of our intellectual leadership reflects the stance of the Democrat Party Black Caucus, associated 101 level college teachings, the supportive media and linked cultural marxist/"critical theory" thought. His remarks on Gnostic thought here may also be food for thought. These are not endorsed as gospel, but are noted as something to provoke and nourish thought. In Garvey's words echoed by Marley, "none but ourselves can free our minds." Jesus' own words are apt: "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free," followed by the sad warning, "But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me . . . " [Jn 8:31b-32, 45.] Let us therefore beware of setting up a crooked yardstick as a false standard of truth and uprightness, for, as what is genuinely straight and upright cannot conform to crooked falsity.)]
 In short, by imposing so-called methodological naturalism, in the minds of those who think like professor Lewontin -- e.g., the leadership of both the US National Academy of Science and National Science Teachers Association, along with many other individuals and groups  (i.e. this is an ideologically and institutionally dominant, though patently question-begging, school of thought) -- science is forced into an evolutionary materialistic mould; right from the outset.  One that, of course, locks God and the gospel out by imposed assumption dressed up in a lab coat, all the while imagining itself to be founded on objective fact and sound logic. But instead, painful though it is to have to hear, such are plainly going in mind-closing logical circles, as Philip Johnson (a founding Intelligent Design movement thinker) pointed out in the following rebuttal to Lewontin published in November that same year:

For scientific materialists
the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter.
We might more accurately term them "materialists employing science." And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in [now retired Oxford Evolutionary Biologist and atheism advocate Richard] Dawkins’ words) "give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."  

. . . .   The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [Emphases added.] ["The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism," First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

But, in an era where evolutionary materialistic science gives many the impression that God is out of a job, how can the gospel have enough credibility to be heard?

That is the second focal issue for this unit.

Thirdly, we must also focus on responding responsibly and effectively to a region -- and a wider civilisation -- that has badly lost its way

This is the third focal issue for this unit.

Climbing Mars Hill

In AD 50, the Apostle Paul, having been harried out from city after city in Macedonia, faced a very similar set of challenges to what we now face, in Athens. 

And, as a great lion pushed too far turns at bay and vexes those who unwisely kept on pushing, harrying and pursuing, the apostle took a bold stance before the Areopagus:
Ac 17:16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was greatly upset because he saw the city was full of idols. 17 So he was addressing the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles in the synagogue, and in the marketplace [the Agora]  every day those who happened to be there. 18 Also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him, and some were asking, “What does this foolish babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods.” (They said this because he was proclaiming the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) 

19 So they took Paul and brought him to the Areopagus [possibly, on Mars Hill itself -- pictured below -- or (more likely)  in the neighbouring Agora],

Mars hill, at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens (cf video tour here)
. . . saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are proclaiming? 20 For you are bringing some surprising things to our ears, so we want to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there used to spend their time in nothing else than telling or listening to something new.)

22 So Paul stood before the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For as I went around and observed closely your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown god.’ Therefore what you worship without knowing it, this I proclaim to you.

24 The God who made the world and everything in it, who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives life and breath and everything to everyone.

26 From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live,  27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 For in him we live and move about and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

29 So since we are God’s offspring, we should not think the deity is like gold or silver or stone, an image made by human skill and imagination.  30 Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard about the resurrection from the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul left the Areopagus.

34 But some people joined him and believed. Among them were Dionysius, who was a member of the Areopagus, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. [NET]
Paul's approach was not mere pandering to the itching ears of intellectual elites and the hangers on eager to pick up snippets on "the latest ideas." Instead, we here see a civilisational pivot moment, a kairos. One where, he did not fail, never mind seemingly scanty results and a tendency to over-read remarks in 1 Cor 1 on the futility of man-made flawed intellectual and theological schemes so there must be a shift in focus to the "simple" gospel of the crucified, risen Christ. But of course, there is a way that dominant but falsity-driven schemes of thought block people from receiving the gospel! There is a worldviews and cultural agenda reason why the message of the cross was "foolishness to the Greeks" and "a stumbling-block to Jews. " 
However, that futility must be shown at the right time -- kairos, again --  and in the right way -- due balance of facts & logic, credibility and speaking to heart and mind -- so a counter-culture alternative can be firmly founded. As 1 Cor 1:24 put it, "Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God" to those who respond to the gospel's truth and power; demonstrated through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, with 500 witnesses and in fulfillment of centuries-long scriptural prophecy. Further shown through the living power of encounter with God and life-transformative truth for 2,000 years now.
And, on that "Athens was a failure" model, how then do we explain the powerful analysis in the opening chapters of Romans, written about seven years later, which fleshed out themes in Ac 17? 
Instead, a more balanced view is that c AD 50, on Mars Hill, Paul exposed the fatal cracks in the proud systems of the day, and showed the way to build a future for coming generations. Where, history shows, he held the future, one that took generations to materialise fully. The mission of the church is a long term relay, not a 100 m sprint. He therefore planted the mustard seed that grew into a stout tree that put down roots, put up shoots, drew on the environmental resources of soil, sun, air, water etc,  becoming the shelter and framework for the future. 
The apostle's approach therefore gives us some key examples and ideas:
1 --> As we have already outlined, St Paul first found a culturally bridging point of contact, the now famous altar to the unknown god that points to the rhetorical kairos, the opportunity and occasion that focuses attention and opens the way for the speech to effect a breakthrough.  So, while he is going to do a "look at the foundations and their cracks" radical critique, he is not introducing something utterly strange, but is explaining what the unknown God honoured in a municipal monument right there in their city has told him to say to the Athenians (and through them, to all peoples).

2 --> Subtly, he is also reminding the Athenians -- proud guardians of Greece's intellectual heritage (which is the heart of our own intellectual culture) -- that on the most important point of knowledge, the foundational ground of reality, the root of being, they have had to build a public monument to their ignorance. Craaack . . . the foundations of the pagan, cynical, skeptical worldview and culture -- "the common people thought the stories of the gods were equally true, the philosophers that they were equally false, the politicians that they were equally useful" [cf. Gibbon et al.]  --  have a fatal structural flaw.

3 --> He then proceeded to correct common misunderstandings: the Creator of the cosmos is not dependent on us, nor is he confined to temples like the idols are. Instead, we depend on him, and as their own poets have put it we are his sons and daughters; it is in him that we live, move and have our being.

4 --> He is the creator of nationhood, and is Lord of the times, places and resources we have as nations; so supervising the course of history that from time to time, in the face of pivotal moments [ kairous], we are moved to grope for him, however blindly.

5 --> In this time, he has decisively intervened in history, showing us that we will stand before the bar of eternal judgement by raising  Jesus (the one who will be our Judge, having felt the full force of human frailty and temptation) from the dead.
(BTW, Paul here speaks as Apostle and Ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven to the Nations, to representatives of said nations who are outright pagan. He manages to not only start with the good God as Creator and sustainer of the world, our Parent in whom we live, move and have our being who created the nations, but he also directly refers to three of the six foundation principles in Heb 6:1 - 2. Namely, repentance [which implies faith in God through Jesus], resurrection of the dead with Jesus the first-fruits, eternal judgement.  Such implies also the significance of the 500 unshakeable eyewitnesses as providing convincing proof. The command to "all men everywhere" to repent points also to discipleship-themed reformation of the nations as their people live to bring forth fruit meet unto repentance. We can therefore see here a framework for re-founding life, culture, community and civilisation on the gospel, discipleship and God-blessed, Spirit-led transformation.)

6 --> Accordingly, he calls us to turn from former ignorance, face and acknowledge the credible truth, repent and put our trust in God in the face of Christ.

Thus, Paul -- as do today's Christian thinkers -- found an acceptable point of contact, pointed to the key error he would correct, outlined our status as creatures and nations accountable before our common Creator, Sustainer, Lord and Father, then introduced the gospel. The key point of warrant for the gospel (and thus for the reality of that hitherto unknown God) is the resurrection, as attested by over five hundred eyewitnesses and the fulfillment of scriptural prophecies given in the key case some seven hundred years beforehand.  And, in light of that gospel, we are all called to repentance.

Alas, as outlined, that was the sticking point. 

For, the idea of a bodily resurrection cut across deeply entrenched worldview assumptions. So, many in the audience in effect said: never mind our acknowledged ignorance and whatever evidence you may present, we don't accept that God can be like that.

The immediate results were therefore scanty, and Paul was literally laughed out of court. 

But, today, Dionysius the Areopagite (one of the few who heeded the gospel call that day) is remembered as the first bishop of Athens, and as its patron saint. Indeed, from a map of modern Athens, we can see that the road by Mars Hill is now called Apostle Paul Street. Its continuation by the Acropolis is Dionysius the Areopagite street. Behind the Agora is Holy Apostle church:

To cap it all off, the above once- mocked Mars Hill speech is on a bronze plaque affixed at the foot of the hill itself:

The verdict of history is in: the future belonged to the Apostle and even more to the gospel he proclaimed that decisive day. Not to  the skeptical scholars or to cynical politicians of the ilk of a Pilate: "what is 'truth'?"

Just so, in our day, by God's grace the well-warranted truth of the gospel will again prevail. For:

7 --> as Paul put it in Acts 17, God created the nations, and so controls our places and times [kairous], that we are forced to grope (however blindly and ignorantly) for him in the midst of crises.

8 --> Then, as Paul’s presence in Athens exemplifies, God sends his spokesmen into such places at such times with the call to repentance, renewal and reformation, opening the door --

“so that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles [εθνη -- ethne, from  ἔθνος -- ethnos  n. 1. a race (as of the same habit), i.e. a tribe] through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Holy Spirit.”[Gal. 3:14, NIV '84] 
9 --> Therefore, following Eph 4:9 - 16, "[Jesus] . . . gave" leaders to the church, "to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up . . . attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ." [NIV '84]

10 --> So, God is now sending the gospel of blessing to the nations of the Caribbean in our time of kairos, thus calling out, creating, building and equipping his body, the church “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” as the means of blessing for our region and beyond, to the wider world.

11 --> Thus, he is sending us out as his disciples, into — and beyond — the local community as “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

12 --> Consequently, as we live, love, evangelise, disciple, serve, and provide high integrity leadership, Christ’s reforming and transforming redemptive fullness will naturally, often invisibly and imperceptibly, spread through "all things" across the Caribbean Basin and beyond.

13 --> This promotes truly sustainable -- God-blessed -- development under the vision of Psalm 127:
 PS 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house,     
its builders labor in vain.   
Unless the LORD watches over the city,     
the watchmen stand guard in vain. [NIV '84]

We see here a picture of the God who is not only Creator and Lord, but enters into  history, bringing us to repentance and reconciliation, graciously opening the doors for a mutual agreement -- a covenant -- with promises, conditions and blessings. 
Where, the apostle notes of the properly matured church:
Eph 4:11 And [His gifts to the church were varied and] He Himself appointed 
- some as apostles [special messengers, representatives], 
- some as prophets [who speak a new message from God to the people], 
- some as evangelists [who spread the good news of salvation], and 
- some as pastors and teachers [to shepherd and guide and instruct],
  12 [and He did this] to fully equip and perfect the saints (God’s people) for works of service, to build up the body of Christ [the church]; 13 until we all reach oneness in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, [growing spiritually] to become a mature believer, reaching to the measure of the fullness of Christ [manifesting His spiritual completeness and exercising our spiritual gifts in unity].
  14 So that we are no longer children [spiritually immature], tossed back and forth [like ships on a stormy sea] and carried about by every wind of [shifting] doctrine, by the cunning and trickery of [unscrupulous] men, by the deceitful scheming of people ready to do anything [for personal profit]. 
[--> echoes of the incident in Ac 27, of AD 59 are strong in this AD 61/62 letter, and there are subltler pointers to themes in Ac 17 (AD 50), Rom 1 (AD 57) etc. Beyond Ac 27 lies an interaction with Plato's parable of the mutinous ship of state with those who usurp the helm looting the stores and recklessly sailing towards shipwreck. There are also subtler echoes of Jesus' rejoinder about false enlightenment . . . "if the light in you is darkness, how great is your darkness" . . . in Matt 6 to Plato's parable of the cave. See vv 17 - 19 and 20 - 24 ff.]
  15 But speaking the truth in love [in all things—both our speech and our lives expressing His truth], let us grow up in all things into Him [following His example] who is the Head—Christ. [AMP]

But, before such covenantal blessings can be accessed by the individual, the family, church or the community, the issue of rebellious, willfully sinful rejection of God must be faced; as Paul outlines in Romans 1 - 2, and with an insight from ch. 13 on love as the keystone of core morality:
  Rom 1:18 . . . the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, 19 because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  

20 For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.  21 For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts1 were darkened.  22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

 24 Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! . . . .  28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done . . . .
 Rom 2:5 . . .  [B]ecause of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed!  

6 He will reward each one according to his works: 7 eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, 8 but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness . . . .

13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be declared righteous.  14 For whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things required by the law, these who do not have the law are a law to themselves. 15 They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them, 16 on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.
Rom 13: 8b . . . the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong [Thayer: κακός -1. of a bad nature  2. of a mode of thinking, feeling, acting a. base, wrong, wicked b. not such as it ought to be 3. troublesome, injurious, pernicious, destructive, baneful] to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. [NET, emphases added]
In the apostle's argument, the dismissive rejection of God is always culpable; for there is adequate -- nay, compelling -- evidence in the world outside and the heart, mind and conscience of man inside, to strongly warrant the conclusion that our world is a Creation, and that of a good God.  

The God under whose moral government we therefore live, through the principle that he has made us equally in his image and thus creates a mutual obligation of respect, love and not doing harm but rather benefit to neighbour. This principle of moral government we can see amplified in John Locke's citation from "the judicious [Anglican Canon Richard] Hooker, in his Ecclesiastical Polity, 1594 +, when Locke sought to ground the principles of liberty and justice in the community, in Ch 2 sect. 5 of his well-known Second Treatise on Civil Government:

. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.]

In short, the apostle holds that people who turn from God and the evidence that points to him, are in willful error; an error that then tends to eat away at the bonds between ourselves and others whom God has made just as much in his image as we ourselves. However, people thus have reasonable moral expectations that we must respect their dignity as created just like ourselves, equally in God's image, and with their own individual calling under God to a path of good and achievement. So, we can have no just right to hinder our neighbour by violating life, liberty, property, innocent reputation etc. 
We may further recognise that to be rational, we must be genuinely free (rather than, say, being "wetware," garbage-in/garbage-out [GIGO], computational substrates working from forces of chance and/or mechanical necessity of organisation and programming). We must be able to choose to follow an implication or the balance of evidence etc. Freedom, then, is not mechanically governed and/or driven by chance, but by real choice thus by the duty to choose aright
That is, just to be able to genuinely argue about these things, we are inescapably morally governed, starting with . . . 
first duties of responsible reason:
 We can readily identify at least seven inescapable first duties of reason

Inescapable,” as they are so antecedent to reasoning that even the objector implicitly appeals to their legitimate authority in the heat of thought, speech, argument or quarrelling; inescapable, so first truths of reason, i.e. they are self-evidently true and binding. Namely, Ciceronian duties,
  • to truth, 
  • to right reason
  • to prudence, 
  • to sound conscience, 
  • to neighbour; so also, 
  • to fairness and
  •  justice 
  • etc.
To see the point, as some find it hard, ponder: is it acceptable to be habitually untruthful (or in error), illogical or unreasonable, imprudent, benumbed or warped in conscience, un-neighbourly, unfair and unjust, etc? The question answers itself!
Now, ponder a second question: why is it so obviously unacceptable?  
Here, we see a monument in Yakutsk, which
exposes the folly of trying to saw off the branch
on which one sits

Likewise, observe again that objectors to such duties cannot but appeal to them to give their objections rhetorical traction,while also those who try to prove such cannot but appeal to the principles too. So, these principles are a branch on which we all must sit, including objectors and those who imagine they are to be proved and try. 
In short, the first duties are first principles of reasoning, arguing, objecting etc.
Of course, there is a linked but not equivalent pattern: bounded, error-prone rationality often tied to ill will and stubbornness or even closed mindedness*; that’s why the study of right reason has a sub-study on fallacies and errors. That we too often may seek to evade duties or may make errors does not overthrow the first duties of reason, which instead help us to detect and correct such errors, as well as to expose and correct our follies. 
* It's surprisingly hard to find a good definition of this fallacy, I suspect, because too many project their own heavily begged questions to the other party.  So, see here.
Such built-in . . . thus, universal . . . law is not invented by parliaments, kings or courts, nor can these principles and duties be abolished by such; they are recognised, often implicitly as an indelible part of our evident nature. Hence, “natural law,” coeval with our humanity, famously phrased in terms of “self-evident . . . truths . . . [and] rights . . . endowed by our Creator” in the US Declaration of Independence, 1776. (Cf. Cicero in De Legibus, c. 50 BC.) Indeed, it is on this framework that we can set out to soundly understand and duly balance rights, freedoms and duties; which is justice, the pivot of law.

The legitimate main task of government, then, is to uphold and defend the civil peace of justice through sound community order reflecting the built in, intelligible law of our nature. Where, as my right implies your duty a true right is a binding moral claim to be respected in life, liberty, honestly acquired property, innocent reputation etc. To so justly claim a right, one must therefore demonstrably be in the right.

Likewise, Aristotle long since anticipated Pilate’s cynical “what is truth?”: truth says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not. [Metaphysics, 1011b, C4 BC.] Simple in concept, but hard to establish on the ground; hence — in key part — the duties to right reason, prudence, fairness etc. Where, prudence can also be seen via Aristotle's summary: 
 ". . . [who aptly] defined prudence as recta ratio agibilium, 'right reason applied to practice.' The emphasis on 'right' is important . . .  Prudence requires us to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong . . . If we mistake the evil for the good, we are not exercising prudence—in fact, we are showing our lack of it." 
[NB: This implies that through sound reason and balanced, insightful judgement applied to the material evidence, factors, claims and circumstances in a situation (which may often be clouded, contentious and confusing or even willfully distorted by deceivers),  we soundly discern and warrant truth and risks or uncertainties . . . yes, we need to ponder and warrant degrees of risk and uncertainty . . . so we can confidently, soberly act as we are rightly guided. This requires that we act through trained, experienced wisdom that delights in "solid food" which is "for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." [Heb 5:14.]

And yes, we find here no comfort for those inclined to remain over-long at the milk stage: "everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child" [v. 13]. Indeed, in the Proverbs, the simple youth are counselled to study the proverbs, precisely "to give prudence to the simple" [Prov 1:4.]  

There is no wrong in being young, simple and naive, but this is a mark of baby-hood,  and a healthy child grows beyond that stage in good time. Long delay in immaturity and in struggling to learn and master the simple is not a good sign: "though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food." [Heb 5:12. It is of course just after this that the author points to the famous six foundational, ABC principles in 6:1 - 2, repentance, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, eternal judgement. This is what the "milk" is.]

This, too, is how prudence becomes "auriga virtutum -- the charioteer of the virtues" (as Aquinas put it); the skilled steersman who guides and controls the chariot. Or even, the ship of state (what is implicitly in view in the Proverbs: "[t]he proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel", Prov 1:1).

From this, we may also see how the first duties naturally fall into a logical chain in light of the key factors, loving God who is Truth Himself, and loving Neighbour made in God's image just as we are; with sound conscience as pivot:

[i] truth --> right reason --> prudence, so sound conscience clears for action. Then, through the voice of sound conscience,
[ii] love for neighbour who is as we are requires fairness and justice etc.]
Thus, too, we may compose sound civil law informed by that built-in law of our responsibly, rationally free morally governed nature; from such, we may identify what is unsound or false thus to be reformed or replaced even though enacted under the colour and solemn ceremonies of law.

The first duties, also, are a framework for understanding and articulating the corpus of built-in law of our morally governed nature, antecedent to civil laws and manifest our roots in the Supreme Law-giver, the inherently good, utterly wise and just creator-God, the necessary (so, eternal), maximally great being at the root of reality.

Consequently, rebellion against God and the echo of his voice in sound conscience undermines our rationality itself, as reason is morally governed through built-in, intelligible law of our responsibly, rationally free nature. Where in particular the voice of sound conscience calls us to fairness, justice, truth, prudence and respect for our fellow creatures . . . neighbours . . . of like nature, despite relatively superficial differences such as colour, race, class, culture, family, age, language, sex etc. (This in fact points to a creation order rooted, natural law anchored framework for sound civil society and government.) 

The preface to the Proverbs can throw a theological, scriptural side-light (probably tracing to Ezra composing an introduction to Solomon's Proverbs):

Prov 1:The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

To know wisdom and instruction,
    to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
    in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
    and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
    the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction. [ESV, cf. vv. 20 - 33.
(NB: Here, by the time the sound choice is obvious to all, it is too late
to avert destructive consequences; Sophia, wisdom personified, is
not merely indulging in, I told you so.)]

 Yes, 2,500 years ago and more our Hebrew forebears clearly understood the first principles and  duties of reason, as sober thinkers on the human challenge of responsible, rational freedom. It is noteworthy too, that they also saw the root issue in this, that the reverence for God, our creator, the root of reality is the first point of sound knowledge and reason
A lesson too many in our civilisation are forgetting; to their cost, and ours.

As we already saw in citation, St Paul elaborates such considerations in Eph 4, echoing his analysis on the ruin of civilisation erected in defiance of God,  in Rom 1. His focus here shifts however, to the counter-cultural stance of the church as it seeks and lives by the four-point balance of truth in love, holy power and godly purity:
Eph. 4:11 And he [Jesus, who came descending and ascending in order to fill all things, cf. vv 9 - 10] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds3  and teachers,4  
-- 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry [i.e. Christian service is carried out by one and all], 
-- for building up the body of Christ [as we all do our service through truthing it in love, v. 15], 
-- 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, 
-- to mature manhood,
--  to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ [notice, the fulness theme],
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes [--> such vulnerability is diagnostic of immaturity] . . . . 

 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. [--> the rebellious world has frustrated the right end of reason, thus (by definition of evil) their minds and bodies of knowledge have become tainted by evil] 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. [--> failed moral government of rationality and ability to genuinely know and understand soundly, leading to chaotic community]
19 They have become callous [--> deadened, be-numbed and unsound in conscience] and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity [--> evils become addictions with a continual craving for ever stronger doses, in part to overcome benumbing of their senses]. 
20 But that is not the way you learned Christ! [--> we can KNOW about Christ with confidence, faith is not opposed to sound reason] — 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus [--> truth accurately describes reality and is accessible, it can be learned], 22 to put off your old self,6  which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires [--> underscoring how breakdown of moral government of rational life debases thought and living alike], 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.[--> we who are reborn from above through Christ have the holy power by the indwelling, anointing Spirit, to learn and live by truth in love and purity. This four-point balance is a signature of the work of the Spirit of God and a distinctive mark of the Christian counter-culture in the wider community.]
But, as Rom 1 highlights,  too often, instead of living together in soundly guided, morally governed, truth-led harmonious community under our common good, reasonable, just Creator, Father, God and Lord, we instead make up distracting stories and images that look like men, birds, beasts, reptiles etc.These form false ideologies that lend  credibility to a mythical distorted misleading substitute for true knowledge of our actual roots of being.

In the old days, such were in pagan temples. Given the sort of question-begging a priori materialism posed by Lewontin and so many others, too often, nowadays, such images and stories appear as "educational" or even "scientific" exhibits in museums, textbooks, TV documentaries and "science" web sites. 

So, we may pause to draw a provocative comparison:

Paul's point is that when we set up such images and spin out such beguiling stories in the teeth of the evidence and implications we know or should easily enough know [cf. here on and here on below] about our world and our own selves, we  fall victim to a willfully ignorant, rebellious en-darkened mindwith a benumbed conscience; one that ironically often sees itself as wise and right. It is then no wonder that our passions spin out of control, and we become benumbed to our shameful, destructive and debasing addictions and willful abuse of the other.  Hence, too, Paul's caution to Christians in Ephesians 4 as we just saw. 
Wilfully rebellious, endarkened, calloused cultures such as Paul here describes, go into moral spin-out, crash and burn. 

That sounds rather sadly like early C21 Western Civilisation, but we will predictably hear the hot retort:  
Science shows that there is no evidence for God, and your out-dated religion is in a losing war against ever-advancing knowledge!
Is that really so?

Let us see . . .

A warranted first step to Theism: design, not "designoid"

In our time, faith in God is under unprecedented attack.  This should be understood in light of of the counsel in Heb 11 on the pivotal importance of accepting the reality of and and trusting in God:

 Heb 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible . . . .

6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. [ESV]

So, well-grounded confidence in the reality of God and an inclination to trust him in light of his promises (and, from vv 4 - 5, history of dealing with those who so trust him) is foundational to having a right relationship with God.

In an age that often sees "skepticism" as a central intellectual virtue, such trust may seem naive at best. And, when such trust seems rooted in well-grounded findings of science, faith can be seen as little more than intellectual suicide. Hence, the climate of dismissive contempt and outright hostility in the name of science.

This sort of thinking and attitude, in the main, trace to the intentional cultural impact of Darwin's origins science theories on our civilisation since 1859. 

For, as we may read in an October 13th, 1880 letter to Edward Bibbins Aveling (a physician, and Common Law husband of Eleanor Marx (1884), thus better known to history as Karl Marx's de facto son- in- law) in reference to requested remarks on a book by Aveling that sought to popularise Darwin's thought [apparently, The Student's Darwin. London: Freethought Publishing Co., 1881], Charles Darwin went on record as follows:
. . . though I am a strong advocate for free thought [--> NB: free-thought is an old synonym for skepticism, agnosticism or atheism] on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family [--> NB: especially his wife, Emma], if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.
This letter makes it utterly clear that a key background motive for Darwin's theorising on origins science was to put God out of a job, thus indirectly undermining the plausibility of believing in God.  

In thinking and acting like this, he probably believed that he was championing enlightenment and science-led progress in their path to victory over backward, irrational but emotionally clung-to beliefs. And so his strategy was to lead in a science that was in his mind showing just how outdated and ill-founded the Judaeo-Christian theism that had dominated the West since Constantine in the 300's was.

In case the views just raised are doubted, here is Aveling on Darwin, the Christian faith and clergy, shortly after his passing:
SINCE the death of our great teacher, the clergy, who denounced him aforetime with that volubility of which long practice in the art of vituperation has made them consummate masters, have claimed the illustrious dead as one of their flock  . . . . those who are trying to effect a compromise between the irreconcilables, religion and scientific thought, from the Archbishop of Canterbury upwards, are assuring us that the great truths of Evolution are all in harmony with the Bible, and have been this long time embodied in more or less hidden guise in the teaching of the Church—that, in short, the discoveries of to-day are a godsend to religion, whilst less versatile thinkers had regarded them the rather as a god's end. All this might have been passed by with pity and a sigh for something more novel. But when these same persons tell us that Charles Darwin was a religious man and a Christian, a feeling other than one of pity is ours . . . .

[Having been invited to lunch and at the end of the meal with a Dr Büchner of Germany, withdrawing to Darwin's study, so] once we were within the walls of his study, and he was sitting in most unconventional fashion in the large, well-worn easy chair, almost the first thing he said was, "Why do you call yourselves Atheists?" . . . . It was pointed out that the Greek α was privative, not negative; that whilst we did not commit the folly of god-denial, we avoided with equal care the folly of god-assertion: that as god was not proven, we were without god (άϑεοι) and by consequence were with hope in this world, and in this world alone . . .  with point after point of our argument he agreed; statement on statement that was made he endorsed, saying finally: "I am with you in thought, but I should prefer the word Agnostic to the word Atheist."

Upon this the suggestion was made that, after all, "Agnostic" was but "Atheist" writ respectable, and "Atheist" was only "Agnostic" writ aggressive. To say that one did not know was the verbal equivalent of saying that one was destitute of the god-idea, whilst at the same time a sop was thrown to the Cerberus of society by the adoption of a name less determined and uncompromising. At this he smiled and asked: "Why should you be so aggressive? Is anything gained by trying to force these new ideas upon the mass of mankind? It is all very well for educated, cultured, thoughtful people; but are the masses yet ripe for it?" 

Then we asked him whether the same questions he now asked of us had not been addressed to him about the years 1859—60, when his immortal "Origin of Species" first saw the light. Many at that time had thought a greater wisdom would have been shown in only enunciating the revolutionary truths of Natural and Sexual Selection to the judicious few. Many had, as of old, dreaded the open declaration of truth to the multitudes. New ideas are always at first regarded as only for the study.
Danger is feared if they are proclaimed abroad on the house-tops, and discussed in market-place and home. But he, happily for humanity, had by the gentle, irresistible power of reason, forced his new ideas upon the mass of the people. And the masses had been found ripe for it. Had he kept silence, the tremendous strides taken by human thought during the last twenty-one years would have been shorn of their fair proportions, perhaps had hardly been made at all. His own illustrious example was encouragement, was for a command to every thinker to make known to all his fellows that which he believed to be the truth.

Then the talk fell upon Christianity, and these remarkable words were uttered: "I never gave up Christianity until I was forty years of age." I commend these words to the careful consideration of all and sundry who claimed the great naturalist as an orthodox Christian . . . [Aveling, E. B. 1883. The religious views of Charles Darwin. London: Freethought Publishing Company. In reply to this, Darwin's son, Francis wrote: "Dr. Aveling tried to show that the terms "Agnostic" and "Atheist" were practically equivalent—that an atheist is one who, without denying the existence of God, is without God, inasmuch as he is unconvinced of the existence of a Deity. My father's replies implied his preference for the unaggressive attitude of an Agnostic. Dr. Aveling seems (p. 5) to regard the absence of aggressiveness in my father's views as distinguishing them in an unessential manner from his own. But, in my judgment, it is precisely differences of this kind which distinguish him so completely from the class of thinkers to which Dr. Aveling belongs."]
Of course, the proffered definition of "atheist" is a rhetorically convenient and somewhat tendentious one, as:
Definition of atheism: atheism normally is understood as the active, even aggressive, denial of the reality of God, not merely doubting it. 

Which, is of course the reason why Francis Darwin emphasises the difference between Agnosticism and Atheism in his own onward response as cited. But, from the pen of Aveling, and the association of Dr. Ludwig Büchner, of Darmstadt, president of The International Federation of Freethinkers Congress in London on September 25th, 26th, 27th of 1881, we have a clear enough picture on Darwin's views on Religion and how this intersected with his theory and its expected effect on the masses. 

In particular, Darwin was plainly of the view that the Christian faith is ill-founded, that there is no clear warrant for confidence in the reality of God, and that gradual scientific enlightenment would so undermine the Christian faith and theism that eventually an "enlightened" era under the name science would emerge. God's reality would not so much be hotly dismissed but rather viewed as increasingly doubtful and irrelevant to the world of informed thought. (Cf. below.)

Unsurprisingly, then,  once Darwinian thought on the origin of the varieties of life had triumphed in the academy, in education and in the popular media, for the first time in history Atheism became a movement with a mass following.  

This, because -- on the authority of "Science" -- there now seemed to be a way to explain the complex and tightly integrated structures of living organisms without necessary reference to design or to -- shudder -- creation. Instead, on the strength of "science," we were invited by Darwin to instead view features of organisms as the product of laws of chance and laws of necessity acting on one or a few original "simple" forms.  Namely: 
. . . Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life and from use and disuse: a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life and from use and disuse: a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved." [Origin, Ch 15. Emphasis added]
So, we can see the heavy blow, with a little sop tossed to "the Creator," to soften the immediate impact. 

Indeed, in another letter, written to Joseph Hooker in 1872, Darwin  suggested that even the origin of life itself perhaps did not need an intelligent Creator:
It is often said that all the conditions for the first production of a living organism are present, which could ever have been present. But if (and Oh! what a big if!) we could conceive in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, etc., present, that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day such matter would be instantly devoured or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed . . .
This pattern of thought has progressed to the point where Dawkins has openly said that evolutionary biology makes it possible to be "an intellectually fulfilled atheist."  He thus re-defines biology as the study of complicated things that seem to be designed (but are not), terming such things: "designoid." And, as we saw above, Lewontin fails to see anything wrong with imposing materialism on science before any facts can speak. 

Mr Martin Mahner of the Center for Inquiry-Europe is even more explicit in redefining science as applied evolutionary materialist education, in a 2011 Science and Education article:
. . . metaphysical naturalism is a constitutive ontological principle of science in that the general empirical methods of science, such as observation, measurement and experiment, and thus the very production of empirical evidence, presuppose a no-supernature principle . . . .
Metaphysical or ontological naturalism (henceforth: ON) ["roughly" and "simply"] is the view that all that exists is our lawful spatiotemporal world. Its negation is of course supernaturalism: the view that our lawful spatiotemporal world is not all that exists because there is another non-spatiotemporal world transcending the natural one, whose inhabitants—usually considered to be intentional beings—are not subject to natural laws . . . . Both scientists and science educators keep being challenged by creationists of all shades, who try hard to reintroduce supernaturalist explanations into biology and into all the areas of science that concern the origin of the world in general and of human beings in particular. A major aspect of this debate is the role of ON in science . . . .

ON is not part of a deductive argument in the sense that if we collected all the statements or theories of science and used them as premises, then ON would logically follow. After all, scientific theories do not explicitly talk about anything metaphysical such as the presence or absence of supernatural entities: they simply refer to natural entities and processes only. Therefore, ON rather is a tacit metaphysical supposition of science, an ontological postulate. It is part of a metascientific framework or, if preferred, of the metaparadigm of science that guides the construction and evaluation of theories, and that helps to explain why science works and succeeds in studying and explaining the world. ["The role of Metaphysical Naturalism in Science," Science and Education, 2011] 
In an intellectual climate like this, the idea of a God and Creator often seems to be both unnecessary and perhaps even absurd or an attack against knowledge and its great champion, science. Worse, the despised "supernaturalism" is led by potentially violent and tyrannical, "fundamentalist" heirs of the Inquisition who in their blind, irrational religiosity have become enemies of "science," "progress," and even "freedom."  

However, in the rush to rage and dismissal, something crucial is being missed. 

Namely, that there is a second, easily empirically investigated contrast to "natural," i.e. ART-ificial. And, to investigate whether something was produced by design, on evident, tested and found reliable observable markers -- signs -- of such design, is beyond reasonable dispute, a routine scientific endeavour. Once, science is taken on terms such as we may find in high quality, responsible dictionaries written before the recent brouhaha over the scientific status of the inference to design on empirically reliable signs, and which sought to summarise how science is understood by the informed:
science: a branch of knowledge conducted on objective principles involving the systematized observation of and experiment with phenomena, esp. concerned with the material and functions of the physical universe. [Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1990 -- and yes, they used the "z" Virginia!]

scientific method: principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge [”the body of truth, information and principles acquired by mankind”] involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses. [Webster's 7th Collegiate Dictionary, 1965]
For example, in archaeology, we routinely distinguish between "archaeology" and "natural.," based on presence of objects manifesting ART-ificial origin. Similarly, in forensics, detectives, arson investigators and crime scene investigators or police laboratories routinely look for signs of accident, mechanical necessity in action or intentional action. In cryptology and in signals analysis, we mark a distinction between characteristics of noise, mechanical necessity and intelligent communication. This is of course the root of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence initiative [SETI] where ironically, because it is so hard to produce and sustain, a pure sinusoidal tone of steady frequency and amplitude -- what would be termed a carrier in telecommunications -- would be a mark of intelligence. Where also, structures, systems and processes that are artificial, are engineered, routinely show characteristic signs that they were produced by intelligently directed control. 

This is not new, in Plato's The Laws, Book X (c. 360 BC), we may read his remarks:

[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only . . . 

A Penguin Edition of Monod's
Chance and Necessity (English, 1971;
French edition, 1970)
Similarly, at the turn of the 1970's, Jacques Monod (a winner of a Nobel Prize in 1965, for his work on the mechanism of genetic replication and protein synthesis), in writing about naturalistic origins of life, proposed that they were the result of chance and necessity. This reflects the naturalistic attitude, and is tied to the a priori rejection of design as a possibility; yes, an assumption held to be pivotal to scientific "objectivity." Clipping:

[T]he basic premise of the scientific method, . . . [is]
that nature is objective and not projective. Hence it is through reference to our own activity, con-scious and projective, intentional and purposive-it is as | makers of artifacts-that we judge of a given object's
“naturalness" or “artificialness." [pp. 3 - 4]  . . . . [T]he postulate of objectivity is consubstantial with
science: it has guided the whole of its prodigious develop-ment for three centuries. There is no way to be rid of it, even tentatively or in a limited area, without departing from the domain of science itself. [p. 21]
 In a 1971 interview, he went on further telling record:
[T]he scientific attitude implies what I call the postulate of objectivity—that is to say, the fundamental postulate that there is no plan, that there is no intention in the universe. Now, this is basically incompatible with virtually all the religious or metaphysical systems whatever, all of which try to show that there is some sort of harmony between man and the universe and that man is a product—predictable if not indispensable—of the evolution of the universe.— Jacques Monod [Quoted in John C. Hess, 'French Nobel Biologist Says World Based On Chance', New York Times (15 Mar 1971), p. 6. Cited in Herbert Marcuse, Counter-Revolution and Revolt (1972), p. 66.]
This is so important, that I now clip a "meme" image of the comment: 

This is an a priori imposition of evolutionary materialistic scientism, dressed up in the lab coat. It is especially significant that Monod -- who won a Nobel prize in key part for work on the genetic code and protein synthesis -- speaks like that in the teeth of the evidence of the genetic code, a manifestation of language used to control processes. 

For, language is a known strong indicator of intelligence as cause, and demonstrates how a-periodic, complex, structured, coherent functional organisation (as opposed to crystal-like periodic repetitive order . . . which Monod discusses . . . and again as opposed to mere randomness) is a signature of intelligent design as cause. So strong a signature, that one would have to provide demonstration of language and of complex coded process control coming about by blind chance and mechanical necessity in order to properly hold otherwise. 

As will be seen below, such simply has not been forthcoming.

Philip Johnson's retort to Richard Lewontin is thus again apt in reply, just as much so as it was to Lewontin's imposition of a priori evolutionary materialism in a notorious NYRB article of 1997:
For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them "materialists employing science." And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence.
That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) "give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose." . . . .
The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [Emphasis added.] [The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

In short, we may reasonably argue by contrast to materialistic question-begging, that across time, and in light of the importance of the goals and values that science should be genuinely objective, should be fair in its methods, and should seek to progressively discover the truth about our world. So, a sounder understanding/definition of science is that:
science, at its best, is the unfettered — but ethically and intellectually responsible — progressive, observational evidence-led pursuit of the truth about our world (i.e. an accurate and reliable description and explanation of it), based on:
a: collecting, recording, indexing, collating and reporting accurate, reliable (and where feasible, repeatable) empirical -- real-world, on the ground -- observations and measurements,

b: inference to best current -- thus, always provisional -- abductive explanation of the observed facts,

c: thus producing hypotheses, laws, theories and models, using  logical-mathematical analysis, intuition and creative, rational imagination [including Einstein's favourite gedankenexperiment, i.e thought experiments],

d: continual empirical testing through further experiments, observations and measurement; and,

e: uncensored but mutually respectful discussion on the merits of fact, alternative assumptions and logic among the informed. (And, especially in wide-ranging areas that cut across traditional dividing lines between fields of study, or on controversial subjects, "the informed" is not to be confused with the eminent members of the guild of scholars and their publicists or popularisers who dominate a particular field at any given time.)
 As a result, science enables us to ever more effectively (albeit provisionally) describe, explain, understand, predict and influence or control objects, phenomena and processes in our world.
Of course, the pivotal issue is that, on these terms, there is significant evidence in the world in which we live, that:
An illustration of cosmological fine tuning, involving
just two of the many dozens of parameters, which shows also
not just local but global fine tuning
I: The observed cosmos shows signs of being set up at a finely tuned, knife's edge operating point that makes possible Carbon-chemistry, aqueous medium cell based life.

II: Cell-based biological life, at its molecular roots, is built on complex, coded, functionally specific organisation and information, exhibiting step by step processes that require core clusters of parts that have to all be present and work together for metabolism and self-replication to happen. (That is, cell-based life shows complex, functionally specific information, and irreducible complexity of core structures. Indeed, "coded" points to what Sir Francis Crick highlighted in his March 19, 1953 letter to his son, Michael: "Now we believe that the DNA is a code. That is, the order of bases (the letters) makes one gene different from another gene (just as one page of print is different from another)."  That is, we here see language and coded, step by step instructions -- algorithms -- that are used to create proteins, the workhorse molecules of the cell, showing goal-oriented behaviour. The only empirically warranted, actually observed source for such phenomena is design, i.e. "art." Arguably, too, language, algorithms, execution machinery and linked step by step goal-oriented processes are strong signatures of design.)  The letter, p. 5:

III: The world of complex, multicellular life forms reveals not only (i) a systematic pattern of sudden appearances, stasis and disappearance or continuity to the modern era in the fossil record -- the only actual record of life in the past beyond human observation, but also (ii) a consistent and overwhelming pattern of many body plans that are based on huge further leaps in such complex, functionally specific information, and many further cases of irreducibly complex organised structures and processes.

IV: We ourselves exhibit linguistic ability, which is a leap in body plan complexity. We are also forced to rely on the capacity of the mind to know accurately and reason correctly -- not just to blindly carry out processes shaped willy-nilly by blind happenstance and mechanical necessity, which are irrelevant to warrant, force of logical inference, or truthfulness. That is, mind transcends mere survival of the fittest and related promotion of whatever works. (On this point, evolutionary materialism arguably reduces to self-referential contradictions, i.e. the absurdity of relying on a mind that on such premises we have no good reason to accept as reliable.)

V: We find ourselves under moral government by the force of ought, and cannot escape feeling and indeed knowing that, say: torturing innocent children for pleasure is wrong. That strongly points to our being under the lordship of a moral governor.
These five concerns and associated empirical signs therefore cumulatively strongly point to the reasonableness of seeing that our world is designed, life is designed, major forms of life are designed, and that we are not only designed but are intellectually and morally responsible towards the truth and the right.

So, on empirically based, reasonable inference to design, it is patently not irrational or anti-scientific, to hold that the world, its contents and we ourselves are designed, by a creator beyond the cosmos of awesome power and knowledge, who holds us to our moral and intellectual responsibilities. Nor is this new, for instance the co-founder of the theory of evolution, from 1869 on went on record that he found, even in an evolutionary view, evidence of purpose and mind in the world of life. Thus, he titled and sub-titled his major -- but now largely forgotten --work (The World of Life, 1910 on, cf. here, here, here and here at Amazon):

The World of Life: a manifestation of Creative Power, Directive Mind and Ultimate Purpose

And, in the preface, he spelled out what he meant, thusly:
But besides the discussion of these and several other allied subjects, the most prominent feature of my book is that I enter into a popular yet critical examination of those underlying fundamental problems which Darwin purposely excluded from his works as being beyond the scope of his enquiry.
Such are, the nature and causes of Life itself ; and more especially of its most fundamental and mysterious powers growth and reproduction. I first endeavour to show (in Chapter XIV.) by a care-ful consideration of the structure of the bird’s feather; of the marvellous transformations of the higher insects ; and, more especially of the highly elaborated wing-scales of the Lepidoptera (as easily accessible examples of what is going on in every part of the structure of every living thing), the absolute necessity for an organising and directive Life-Principle in order to account for the very possibility of these complex outgrowths.
I argue, that they necessarily imply first, a Creative Power, which so constituted matter as to render these marvels possible ; next, a directive Mind which is demanded at every step of what we term growth, and often look upon as so simple and natural a process as to require no explanation ; and, lastly, an ultimate Purpose, in the very existence of the whole vast life-world in all its long course of evolution throughout the eons of geological time.
This Purpose, which alone throws light on many of the mysteries of its mode of evolution, I hold to be the development of Man, the one crowning product of the whole cosmic process of  life-development ; the only being which can to some extent comprehend nature; which can perceive and trace out her modes of action ; which can appreciate the hidden forces and motions everywhere at work, and can deduce from them a supreme and over-ruling Mind as their necessary cause.
For those who accept some such view as I have indicated, I show (in Chapters XV. and XVI.) how strongly it is sup-ported and enforced by a long series of facts and co-relations which we can hardly look upon as all purely accidental coincidences. Such are the infinitely varied products of living things which serve man’s purposes and man’s alone not only by supplying his material wants, and by gratifying his higher tastes and emotions, but as rendering possible many of those advances in the arts and in science which we claim to be the highest proofs of his superiority to the brutes, as well as of his advancing civilisation.
From a consideration of these better-known facts I proceed (in Chapter XVII.) to an exposition of the mystery of cell-growth ; to a consideration of the elements in their special relation to the earth itself and to the life-world ; while in the last chapter I endeavour to show the purpose of that law of diversity which seems to pervade the whole material Universe. [Pp. vi - vii, preface, 1914 UK Edn.]
It is worth the pause to see Darwin's Heretic, a recently released video on Wallace's life story and contributions to evolutionary theory and thought:

It is thus significant to see who has been lionised in our time, and who has been largely forgotten or relegated to historical footnotes. And yet, Wallace's story clearly demonstrated that even in an evolutionary frame of thought, it was possible to be a capable scientist and a design thinker. He also raised significant issues on the implications of the observable functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information that we see so often manifested in the world of life. By the late 1970's, J S Wicken, an eminent Origin of Life theorist, would raise quite similar issues, when he wrote:

Organized’ systems are to be carefully distinguished from ‘ordered’ systems.  Neither kind of system is ‘random,’ but whereas ordered systems are generated according to simple algorithms [[i.e. “simple” force laws acting on objects starting from arbitrary and common- place initial conditions] and therefore lack complexity, organized systems must be assembled element by element according to an [[originally . . . ] external ‘wiring diagram’ with a high information content . . . Organization, then, is functional complexity and carries information. It is non-random by design or by selection, rather than by the a priori necessity of crystallographic ‘order.’ [“The Generation of Complexity in Evolution: A Thermodynamic and Information-Theoretical Discussion,” Journal of Theoretical Biology, 77 (April 1979): p. 353, of pp. 349-65. (Emphases and notes added. Nb: “originally” is added to highlight that for self-replicating systems, the blue print can be built-in.)]

Wicken obviously recognised that design is the commonly observed cause of such functionally specific, organised complexity, but hoped that cumulative chance variation and so-called natural selection -- which is purposeless by definition -- can also account for such specified complex organisation and associated information. However, obviously, the very term "selection" implies that purpose and mind may well be involved. 

Which was exactly Wallace's point. 

At any rate, such an inference to design should not be ruled out by imposing question-begging redefinitions of science ahead of letting the observed facts speak, and if natural selection so-called is called on as a substitute for purpose, it should be warranted on abundant and clear observation. The first roadblock to that is that for origin of life, until reproduction based on self-replication of cells exists, there can be no differences in reproductive success for one population to dominate over another and so replace it. Where also, the mechanism for such cellular self replication is based on complex coded information, step by step procedures and a cluster of intricate, carefully organised implementing machines; i.e. sophisticated information technologies.  The only observed cause of such is design, and for excellent reason having to do with the nature of languages, digitally coded computer programs and the machines that execute them. 

Similarly, for novel body plan features and organs, such as the wing or lungs of a bird, or the sonar system of the bat or whale, or the human ability to use language, there are additional jumps of millions of bits of such coded, digital information that has to be written into the DNA in the cell and executed in a controlled fashion, starting from the fertilised ovum. 

Careful and sophisticated design is an obvious candidate explanation for these sorts of things.

But, that is exactly the sort of responsible, informed thinking that attracts the stereotyping, scape-goating and dismissive caricaturing we just saw.

Ironically, such smug prejudice and thinly veiled, ill-founded hostility towards those who object to evolutionary materialist atheism dressed up in the holy lab coat  is usually not recognised for what it is. 

Namely: setting up and smearing convenient strawmen and scape-goats with demeaning or even demonising, dehumanising, polarising caricatures

For, in the minds of the "brights" just described -- and as they have been led to think by the ideological champions who endlessly drum out their talking points in the media and education systems -- those who object to such talking points hate science and would turn back the clock on progress; showing themselves to be ignorant, stupid, insane or even outright wicked. 

Before any reasonable discussion can be had, this sort of illegitimate polarisation and atmosphere poisoning (and, equally, the reverse stereotyping of those who have genuine issues with typical views and values of Evangelicals and other conservative Christians) will have to be put to one side.

Major and controversial issues cannot be soundly addressed in a poisonously polarised, angry atmosphere.

But, having noted that, we must now move on to the actual pivotal issue. For, plainly, the central citadel of the evolutionary materialist ideology is what is seen as its firm scientific foundation.

So, we must answer this issue first of all, if we are to be even listened to. 

For that, as we just saw in outline, the place to begin is with something Darwin did not know 130 - 150 years ago.

Namely, that the workhorse protein molecules in the living cell are carefully assembled step by step in the ribosome based on a 4-state (G/C/A/T or U) digitally coded message .  This message is found in the messenger RNA molecule [mRNA], which serves as a control tape. The process also uses sets of transfer RNA [tRNA] molecules, which are key-lock fitted implementing-arm machines with "tool tips" loaded with the successive amino acids to be added to the emerging protein chain. So, we may illustrate


Thus, in a living cell, protein bio-synthesis is a step by step, code-controlled procedure, as Vuk Nikolic’s astonishing video animation of the process shows:


Moreover, we may see that John Von Neumann's logical-mathematical requisites for a self-replicating automaton (as is illustrated below) are fulfilled in the living, self-reproducing cell: 

As a self-replicating entity that takes in energy and resources from its surroundings to grow, maintain and replicate itself, using metabolic processes, the living cell requires:

(i) a code to record the required information to create not only (a) the primary functional machine  but also (b) the self-replicating facility; and, that (c) can express step by step finite procedures  ("algorithms") to replicate itself; 
(ii) a coded tape record of the required instructions (here, the 4-state DNA code), together with
(iii) a tape reader  that reads and interprets the coded specifications and associated instructions (e.g. as the Ribosome acts during protein assembly); thus controlling:  
(iv) position-arm implementing machines with “tool tips”  used to carry out the action-steps for the code-specified replication (including replication of the constructor itself); backed up by 
(v) either:
(1) a pre-existing reservoir of required parts and energy sources, or    
(2) associated “metabolic” machines carrying out activities that as a part of their function, can provide required specific parts and forms of energy for the replication facility, from generic resources in the surrounding environment.

That such a complex, information system based entity could originate by molecules blindly coming together in Darwin's warm little electrified pond (or a modern equivalent like a deep sea volcanic vent etc.) is utterly implausible.

Instead, on our universal experience and actual observation,
Coded Language Intelligent Design Principle: procedural and data storing languages, digitally coded text, complex stored programs simply do not originate by chance or blind mechanical necessity; but, by the action of purposeful and deeply knowledgeable intelligence.  

For, whenever we directly observe how they are made, functionally specific, complex information[FSCI]  -- and the similarly complex and specific organisation that makes the information do something -- are invariably the products of intelligence.

We are not just pleading that we have not seen it happen by chance and necessity and so are skeptical, but we are also pointing to a positive, universal observation. Namely,

FSCO/I Intelligent design Principle:  complex software (or more broadly, functionally specific, complex organisation and/or associated information [FSCO/I]) is always an intelligent artifact, whenever we see it actually being made.
(In addition, we face needle in haystack blind search challenge: an analysis of blind search of configuration spaces of at least 500 - 1,000 bits scope [3.27 * 10^150 to 1.07 * 10^301 possibilities . . . think of strings of 500 - 1,000 coins] on the gamut of 10^57 to 10^80 atoms [Solar System to observed cosmos]  acting as observers and ~10^13 - 10^15 atomic valence shell level interactions/s for ~ 10^17 s will only be able to blindly sample a negligible fraction of such spaces, making blind searches maximally unlikely to find shorelines of islands of function in such spaces of possible configurations. Where also, searches for a "golden search" of such spaces are in effect samples from the power set of the direct space of possible configurations; noting that for a set with n members, the power set, the set of possible subsets, has 2^n members. In short, search for golden search is exponentially harder. Such renders blind search mechanisms implausible as explanations for FSCO/I.)
 Illustrating the challenge, is this arrangement of 35 x 16 = 560 black or white dots likely to be by chance? (so, why do we confidently infer origin by design, instead?):

 So now contemplate atoms as "observers" of strings of coins being rapidly, repeatedly flipped at random in a blind search for functionally specific, information rich patterns:

. . . that is:

We can now compare computers and D/RNA in action to make proteins:

Now, let us turn to a "map" of the blind search process as it moves across a vast configuration space with necessarily deeply isolated islands of function (due to the need to assemble and couple correct, correctly oriented parts to achieve relevant function), the FSCO/I already referred to:

. . . as a simple case of "islands of function," ponder an exploded view of a well-known fishing reel showing functionally coherent arrangement of correct parts:

. . . then ask, how plausible it would be to expect to assemble a properly working reel by shaking up the parts in a bait bucket. So, also, we may look deeper at the abstract map:

So, then, by the logic of induction, design theorists plausibly argue that 
Design inference on reliable sign principle: we are therefore reasonably warranted and so epistemically entitled to take such FSCO/I as a reliable sign -- a signature -- of intelligently directed configuration. That is, of design.
We may formalise this reasoning by bringing back up an insight that was already ancient in the days of Plato in The Laws, Bk X. Namely, that on experience and analysis, causes [to be discussed below under first principles of reason] break down into the action of one or more of three roots: [1] mechanical necessity, [2] blind chance -- these two jointly being "natural" causes" -- and [3] design, or ART-ificial, purposeful action; termed techne by Plato. As he wrote (and as annotated):
[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only . . .
 Of course, Plato -- speaking in the voice of The Athenian Streanger -- went on to reject this concept, arguing that the Soul, the self-moved, mind principle is antecedent to such; making one of the first design inferences on record:
. . . when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second . . . .  
And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number which you may prefer?  . . . . Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the body is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, which is the ruler? . . . .
  If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. [Plato here explicitly sets up an inference to design (by a good soul) from the intelligible order and organisation of the cosmos seen as akin to the working of creative self-moved mind.]
 We may put on the table, therefore a per aspect design explanatory filter:

 This filter, when anchored to a complexity threshold of 500 - 1,000 bits [72 - 143 ASCII characters] becomes a quite conservative way to infer the signature of design. For instance, as Wikipedia concedes against known ideological bent, in an article on the infinite monkeys theorem, we see that:
The theorem concerns a thought experiment which cannot be fully carried out in practice, since it is predicted to require prohibitive amounts of time and resources. Nonetheless, it has inspired efforts in finite random text generation.

One computer program run by Dan Oliver of Scottsdale, Arizona, according to an article in The New Yorker, came up with a result on August 4, 2004: After the group had worked for 42,162,500,000 billion billion monkey-years, one of the "monkeys" typed, "VALENTINE. Cease toIdor:eFLP0FRjWK78aXzVOwm)-‘;8.t" The first 19 letters of this sequence can be found in "The Two Gentlemen of Verona". Other teams have reproduced 18 characters from "Timon of Athens", 17 from "Troilus and Cressida", and 16 from "Richard II".[26]

A website entitled The Monkey Shakespeare Simulator, launched on July 1, 2003, contained a Java applet that simulated a large population of monkeys typing randomly, with the stated intention of seeing how long it takes the virtual monkeys to produce a complete Shakespearean play from beginning to end. For example, it produced this partial line from Henry IV, Part 2, reporting that it took "2,737,850 million billion billion billion monkey-years" to reach 24 matching characters:

RUMOUR. Open your ears; 9r"5j5&?OWTY Z0d... [ACC: Dec 17, 2019]

Obviously, 16 - 24 characters is far short of the relevant thresholds, at best, a factor of about 1 in 10^100. Yes, the article goes on to note that "instead of simply generating random characters one restricts the generator to a meaningful vocabulary and conservatively following grammar rules, like using a context-free grammar, then a random document generated this way can even fool some humans." But, that is simply implicitly conceding that design makes a big difference to what can be done. 

Where, also, as this is a digital age, we will readily see that we can compose a description language and then create a string of yes/no questions to specify any reasonable object -- as say AutoCAD etc do. Thus, our seemingly simplistic discussion on bit strings *-*-*- . . .  is in fact without loss of generality [WLOG]. 

Looking at complex, integrated, coherent information-rich function relevant to the world of life, let us first ponder something far more complex than a fishing reel. Namely, a living cell, here, a nerve cell (and remember, the life forms use coded DNA, associated molecular nanotech machines, regulatory networks etc to build cells and to pass down such cells from one generation to the next):

Now, let us ponder an outline of the cell's metabolism:

 Let's expand the "NW Corner" of the network, on protein synthesis:

 Such compares more than favourably with say an outline of a petroleum refinery:

. . . except, that the cell is doing this on microscopic scale using molecular nanotech, and is part of a class of automaton we have yet to build: a self replicating entity. 

We may readily convert such an organised integrated network into a measure of information content, by devising an efficient description language and chaining Y/N questions, similar to how AutoCAD etc work. The result is obvious, the living cell is chock full of functionally specific, complex, coherently organised information. Which strongly warrants a design inference as best explanation for the origin of life.

We may readily extend this to the cosmos, once we realise that in a great many ways, the physics of our cosmos is fine tuned such that it supports Carbon Chemistry, aqueous medium, terrestrial planet in galactic habitable zone life. (Cf. discussion by Luke Barnes here as a start.)

What, then, of the origin of the dozens of major body plans involved in complex life forms from trees or mushrooms, to bees, to worms, to turtles, to birds and to men? 

For these, the further increments in functionally specific biological information are so large -- moving from several hundred thousand bits for simple unicellular life forms to tens to thousands of millions of bits for multicellular organisms -- that the FSCO/I problem is enormously compounded

The conclusion is the same.

On the actual scientific evidence, it is patently seriously arguable that the best explanation of self-replicating cell based life and its vast diversity -- precisely contrary to Darwin -- is design.  Design is back on the table as a serious candidate explanation for the functionally organised complexity of life. 

Once this is understood, many people will then be willing to consider the cumulative evidence from other domains of thought that points to God as Creator and Lord with a far more open mind. 

As an introductory survey, we may wish to view Strobel's The Case for a Creator (and perhaps read the book of the same title, and/or look at an introductory course here on):

The Case For A Creator from JD Pilgrim on Vimeo.

But, before looking at the case for theism (not merely design), we must first ask a prior question: in a world with many competing and conflicting worldviews, is there a reasonable basis -- foundation -- on which we can make a credible choice?

Building a theistic Worldview: first principles and first truths

First, we must accept that all worldviews have foundational or root or core "first plausible" basic beliefs that are not subject to further proof: they are where our proofs must start from.  For, to warrant a claim, A, as worthy of trust and acceptance -- i.e. as credible, or even as knowledge -- we need B, and B would need C, and so on.  

 It would help us to see this more clearly, were we to pause and briefly define the key term, worldview:
world·view  (wûrldvy)
n. In both senses also called Weltanschauung.
1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.

[Translation of German Weltanschauung.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
The terms "perspective" and "beliefs" point to the implications of the chain of warrant challenge just outlined.  For, in the end . . . as the so-called Agrippa/Munchhausen Trilemma suggests . . .   we face the proverbial "turtles all the way down" forever; or else circularity; or else, if we are to be logically coherent and rational, we must stop at "first plausibles" that are reasonable:

Now, a vicious infinite regress of warrant is absurdly impossible for finite, fallible thinkers such as we are: we would never get far back enough to get started with proving, nor could we trust ourselves to be right all along the chain.  

 Aristotle gives us pause:

Looping back through "turtles in a circle" is little better: it ends up assuming what should be shown. 

That is, the last turtle has to stand somewhere. As in:

The last turtle stands on a base or foundation (HT: Wikimedia andPelf )

We are thus forced to stop at some set of "first plausibles" or other -- that is, a "faith-point" (yes, we ALL must live by some faith or another, given our finitude and fallibility). Then, we need to compare alternatives and see which "somewhere" -- which worldview foundation -- is least difficult. Which, answers to the challenge that such is question-begging. 

Likewise, if one retorts by suggesting a vague possible fourth alternative to dismiss the trilemma, surely s/he should be able to actually exemplify the fourth structure, on pain of having no serious alternative. (On pain of a worse form of question begging: evasion by suggesting maybe something else is possible then implicitly assuming the ghost of a suggestion is so, without warrant.)

The result is, we inevitably start from first plausibles which then shape the plausibility structures in a community (which are accepted by many of its members) as was suggested by the Austrian-American sociologist, Peter Berger. As Joe Carter summarises:
Everything that we believe is filtered through our plausibility structures — belief-forming apparatus that acts as a gatekeeper, letting in evidence that is matched against what we already consider to be possible. Plausibility structures filter out claims that we believe cannot be reasonable or potentially true. They don’t necessarily tell us if a claim is true, only that the truth of the claim appears plausible enough for us to accept and that we are not wholly unwarranted in thinking it could be true. Whether we are gullible or skeptical, the beliefs we accumulate are those that have been filtered through plausibility structures at the individual and cultural level. These eventually form our worldview, which itself becomes a broad strainer that filters out beliefs that we won’t even consider to be possibly true . . . .  
Oddly enough, while atheism is a minority view and has been so throughout the history of the world, it is assumed that pluralism requires that we adopt it as the default plausibility structure for almost all areas of human culture. Everything from science and education to politics and public policy is assumed to begin with the assumption that either God does not exist or that his existence is irrelevant.["Apologetics and the Role of Plausibility Structures," at thegospelcoalition dot org, July 18, 2014.]
 In Berger's own words:
[T]here  is  a  further  aspect  of  this  that  is extremely important for the reality-maintaining task of religion . . .  Worlds are socially constructed  and  socially maintained.  Their  continuing reality, both objective . . . [i.e. as] taken-for-granted facticity . . .  and sub-jective (as facticity imposing itself on individual consciousness), depends  upon . . .  those  processes that ongoingly reconstruct and maintain the particular worlds in question.  Conversely,  the  interruption  of  these  social  processes threatens  the  (objective  and  subjective)  reality  of  the  worlds  in | question.  Thus  each world  requires  a social  'base'  for  its con-tinuing existence as a world that is real to actual human beings. This 'base' may be called its plausibility structure. 20 

F/N 20: The concept of plausibility structure, as defined here, incorporates some key understandings of Marx, Meade and Schutz.
[The Sacred Canopy/The Social Reality of Religion, NY: Doubleday 1967/ London: Penguin, 1973, -/pp. 53 - 54.]

Of course, we must duly note here, the culture-relative use of "reality," "objectiv[ity]" and "subject[ivity]." That already tells us how deeply rooted the the radical relativism and/or subjectivism of our day was in academic circles by the mid 1960's.

Carter then suggests:
This idea that soft atheism is the neutral ground from which all sectarian matters must be addressed is patently absurd. Not only does this claim fail to recognize that atheism is not religiously neutral, it fails to acknowledge that atheism is quite implausible. It is this implausibility that needs to be continuously pointed out and brought into the open.
That is already suggestive of a key task for this Unit.

However, we must needs further clarify how first plausibles that frame such plausibility structures inevitably arise.


(NB: At this level, all sets of alternative first plausibles bristle with difficulties. Indeed, the fundamental, generic method of philosophy is therefore that of comparative difficulties.)

John Locke aptly summed up our resulting humbling dilemma in section 5 of his introduction to his famous essay on human understanding:

Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 - 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 - 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 - 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 - 21, Eph 4:17 - 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 - 21, Jer. 2:13Titus 2:11 - 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 - 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Emphases added. Text references also added, to document the sources of Locke's biblical allusions and citations. Yes, they are indeed patently there.]
So, we must make the best of the candle-light we have. At worldview choice foundational level, a good way to do that is to look at three major comparative difficulties tests:
(1) factual adequacy relative to what we credibly know about the world and ourselves, 
(2) coherence, by which the pieces of our worldview must fit together logically and work together harmoniously, 
(3) explanatory relevance and simplicity: our view needs to explain reality (including our experience of ourselves in our common world) elegantly, simply and powerfully, being neither simplistic nor a patchwork where we are forever adding after-the-fact patches to fix  leak after leak.
The Titanic hits the Iceberg (HT: Dying Words)
 Now, let us not lose sight of what we are doing: something truly radical, that cuts across what the avant garde and their wanna-be hangers on really want: to discuss the newest ideas and issues within their comfortable world- system. As a rule, they are NOT really interested in an upending foundational critique that is going to start from exposing the rottenness of roots or the fatal cracks in foundations, or worse, looming icebergs in the path of the Titanic. 

We may add an insight, from J. Budziszewski's remark on Francis Schaeffer's Presuppositionalism in a letter to First Things:
[M]y understanding of what Schaeffer was trying to do has been sharpened by reading a 1948 Bible Today article in which he argued that the controversy between evidentialism and presuppositionalism presents a false alternative. Presuppositionalists, he held, are right to assert that the ultimate premises of Christian and anti-Christian systems of thought are utterly at odds. On the other hand, evidentialists are right to assert that between Christian and anti-Christian systems of thought there is always a point of contact. The reason for this point of contact, he argued, is that nonbelievers cannot bring themselves to be completely consistent with their own presuppositions, and this inconsistency is a result of common grace. “Thus, illogically,” he wrote, “men have in their accepted worldviews various amounts of that which is ours. But, illogical though it may be, it is there and we can appeal to it.” Well put. 
[Letters, First Things (May 2000). Observe, response and onward references on "dominionism" and similar accusatory characterisations here.
{NOTES: Schaeffer wrote of addressing the incoherence of what he typically termed "secular humanism"  (and by extension, that of other systems, too) as "taking the roof off," i.e. breaking through the ideological and worldview protective armour that protects established, often power-systems backed error from a fatal collision with actual reality. Indeed, in the 1948 article, he noted how "[i]f the unsaved man was consistent he would be an atheist in religion, and irrationalist in philosophy (including a complete uncertainty concerning "natural laws"), and completely a-moral in the widest sense."

Most people simply cannot live like that and certainly a community and its power systems and structures -- its establishment if you will --  cannot do so or it would disintegrate into nihilistic chaos. So, they are forced to moderate in life the full logical import of the ideologies and underlying core beliefs they hold or go along with.

They need to ask why they find that to be so, and this opens the way for a comprehensive re-think. This, is the strategic opening for godly, insightful, prophetic, intellectual and cultural leadership that by God's grace opens the door for the gospel to speak with credibility and be seriously heard.}]

James Gottry of the James Dobson Family Institute is a contemporary voice, speaking in the American context and illustrating the sort of challenge and call of hope we should present to a lost, wayward, dying world:
More than half of Americans believe that churches and religious organizations are good for the country, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

But in a seemingly contradictory result, 63 percent say the church and other houses of worship should stay out of politics.

In other words, Americans think the church has a positive impact on society — but they also think the church should keep quiet on cultural and political issues that set the present and future course for our society.

Or more directly: Churches, you make this country better, now stay out of the important matters that define our country.


For evangelicals such as myself, this issue has profound personal implications.
As my former pastor repeatedly said, the church is not a building.

It is a movement . . . .
If you are a Christian, you have a spiritual obligation to be “salt and light” by seeking the good of your community.

This means Christians are called to live out our faith outside the four walls of our homes.
We need to be involved not just in our churches, but in our communities . . . . 
Christian theologian-philosopher, evangelist and cultural critic,
Dr Francis A. Schaeffer, issues a challenge to today's
Christians, posing questions we need to ponder, whether
or not we eventually agree with him.
Christians might say, “I’m eager to share the Gospel, but I don’t want to address topics including same-sex marriage, abortion, gender identity, human sexuality, euthanasia, health care, immigration, and the welfare system. [ --> we can always extend this list considerably, e.g. poverty relief and sound economic development, sustainability of same, soundness of economic and general public policies, energy and environment, ecology, peace, war and aggressive ideologies, the use of agit-prop and lawfare and the like to promote cultural and/or policy agendas (as a form of 4th Generation Warfare used by Cultural Marxists and the like), etc.] I just want to talk about the Gospel.”


Gospel means “good news.”

 As you thumb through the pages of the Bible, you’ll find a message of hope on any number of topics. There is good news about our inherent value as humans, from our mother’s womb all the way to natural death.

There is also good news about how God has uniquely made men and women. And there is good news about God’s design for marriage as a reflection of Christ and the church . . . .

In any instance, Christians should take care not to abandon our role, both as citizens and as messengers for the Gospel.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross and redeem and transform us so that we could be quarantined from the culture.

He came to save us so that we could permeate the culture — serving as ambassadors to a world in need of Him. ["Why Christians Absolutely Belong in Politics and Culture," Lifezette, Dec 6, 2009; here.]
Selwyn Duke of The New American (and of course selective clips do not amount to a general endorsement!) adds further food for thought. This also serves to show how gaps may pop up in our thinking; hence inserted comments:

Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, on presuppositions (i.e. first plausibles that
define one's point of faith, thus worldview and ethical framework)
[C]onsider that the only logical reason to embrace Christianity, or any faith, and govern your life by it is that you believe it’s the Truth.




(Unfortunately, many self-proclaimed and well-meaning Christians today don’t; they’re moral relativists.) So anyone with this belief who shies away from politics is essentially saying, “I don’t think having the Truth influence our government is important enough to fight for.” Of course, if the Truth doesn’t exert that influence, the process of elimination tells us that lies [--> and/or errors?] will.
[--> BALANCING INSERT: The obvious counter-point is of course, Pilate's what is truth. We face a day where "religion" is often relegated to "myths and crutches for the feeble-minded and weak-willed" or worse, even as evolutionary materialistic scientism . . . never mind its inherent self-referentially incoherent, self-falsifying  irrationality and equally inherent amorality . . . dresses up in the lab coat and claims to be the fountainhead of knowledge and rationality. This creates a major intellectual, cultural and institutional challenge for any Christian voice that would speak up in the public policy square. And so, after first rebalancing the worldview roots question and dealing with prejudices and undue polarisation (cf. here on the sins and blessings of "Christendom"), we must all face the issue of adequate warrant; thus, the need for our current focus on worldviews, warrant and first principles and duties of reason:
  • We hardly need to more than mention, that when the truth is controversial and people are deeply polarised or indoctrinated, it can be difficult indeed to build a consensus on the right thing to do in good time. 
  • Similarly, those who wish to dismiss the importance of what we are now considering may need to think through what would happen with evangelistic efforts in a situation where the gospel is seen as discredited and its spokesmen are routinely characterised as hate-driven, bigoted [nowadays, often, "homophobic" (cf. here and here)] hypocrites and would-be right-wing Christofascist theocratic oppressors.
  • Ac 27 gives a case in point on where such can end up in the community: needless shipwreck. 
  • That balance is difficult to achieve but responsible, well informed, duly prophetic intellectual and cultural leadership is manifestly a part of our mandate of ambassadorship for the Kingdom of God amidst the Kingdoms of man; where: 

Moreover, a very fundamental point is universally missed regarding the notion that the church shouldn’t speak out on government affairs:
As government grows and begins to meddle in [al]most everything, applying this principle means that the church can’t speak out on [al]most anything! . . . . 
That’s a great recipe for replacing Christian virtue with secular values: Just get the government involved in something you want to take over, and Christians will sit down and shut-up.

Yet there’s an even more fundamental misunderstanding here, one lying at the heart of the wider, “separation of church and state” notion (the modern conception of it, anyway).

Dr Francis A. Schaeffer warns on the consequences of
evolutionary materialistic secular humanism & scientism
(Cf. William Provine in his 1998 U Tenn Darwin Day Address)
Consider: If the religious ideas in question really have been handed down by God, Creator of the Universe and Inerrant Author of All, don’t we have a duty to infuse our public sphere with them? Is it not then an imperative that we immerse schoolchildren in this divine light? Of course, naysayers may now respond, “Not everyone worships sky fairies! These are just man-made beliefs.”

Alright, but if so, why say that the man-made beliefs we happen to call “secular” may be in the public square, but the man-made beliefs we happen to call “religious” may not be? If they’re all man-made, wherein lies the difference? [--> this implies a need to address warrant, and the common claim that "settled science" or the like warrants "secular[ist]," evolutionary materialistic views and agendas]

Conclusion: Either these beliefs are man-made, in which case they can share the table with other man-made ideas and may be in the public square.

Or they’re from God and must be there.

The West has long been in the grip of an illusion, a bizarre prejudice wherein ideas, merely because they’re labeled “religious,” must endure second class status while secular ideas seize the culture and politics and relegate Christianity to an ever-shrinking land of exile.

In reality, though, this distinction between “religious” and “secular” is largely a false one. The senses in which we use these terms, in fact, are relatively modern. For there was a time when beliefs were not “secular” or “religious” — or even liberal or conservative, or right or left — but were classified by way of the only distinction that matters: the true vs. the untrue.

No other perspective makes sense. Think about it: If God exists, is it significant that we call recognition of this reality “religious” or that it’s true? If Marxism is essentially false, is it significant that we call recognition of that reality “secular” or that it’s untrue? There is only Truth and everything else — and everything else, no matter how you dress it up linguistically, is a lie. ["Separation of Truth and State? Why the Church Must be in Politics," New American, Dec 8, 2019.]
Points, worth pondering whether or not we will agree in the end.

However, a significant import relevant to this Unit, is that we clearly need to answer to the issue of warrant, giving a sound reason as to the reason for the faith, ethics and hope we have. After all, we are not in the business of seeking to impose by power but rather we serve this King:
Jn 18:33 So Pilate went into the Praetorium again, and called Jesus and asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”  

34 Jesus replied, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” 

  35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own people and their chief priests have handed You over to me. What have You done [that is worthy of death]?” 

  36 Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world [nor does it have its origin in this world]. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would be fighting [hard] to keep Me from being handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this world.”

  37 So Pilate said to Him, “Then You are a King?” 

Jesus answered, “You say [correctly] that I am a King. This is why I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth [who is a friend of the truth and belongs to the truth] hears and listens carefully to My voice.”

  38 Pilate said to Him [scornfully], “What is truth?”

And when he had said this, he went out[--> he stood before Truth himself and tarried not for an answer . . . ]  to the Jews again and told them, “I find no guilt in Him [no crime, no cause for an accusation] . . ." [AMP]
Thus, we see the nature of ambassadorship of the kingdom of truth, a kingdom not of this world, but one which should give to every man a reasonable, responsible answer for the hope we have:
 1 Pet 3:15 But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect.

  16 And see to it that your conscience is entirely clear, so that every time you are slandered or falsely accused [--> notice, not, if!], those who attack or disparage your good behavior in Christ will be shamed [by their own words]. [AMP]
 Let us therefore now refocus and deepen our analysis, from the seven mountains of influence perspective; which happily fits in well with Schaeffer's "roof" metaphor. This, lets us see the community aspect of the challenge posed by worldviews and cultural agendas; which will require more than quoting Bible verses; compare how Paul spoke in Acts 17.  

Such a model therefore allows us to more clearly see the "roof" to be taken off through worldviews and cultural analysis, and to also clearly see the "pillars" that support the roof. 

All of these will have to be addressed soundly in a balanced way  through the well warranted truth in holy love, power and purity: 

Yes, when a system is manifestly fatally flawed, a radical but truth-based critique -- which may be painful or even unwelcome -- is necessary. 

(Yes, even one that imagines itself to be the radical, progressive replacement of old fashioned, outdated "religious" thought -- notice, how "God," "religion," "Christianity,"  "The Scriptures" and "faith" are practically dirty words in many quarters today . . . ) And in this case, we are therefore going after an assessment of foundations of worldviews from the roots up. 

Just as Jesus did in Jerusalem and Judaea and just as Paul did in Athens before the Areopagus and in his letter to Rome. 

For instance, in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount (as part of a caution on just how deceitful a heart set on worldly lusts including money-power is), we find an amazing observation on how darkness masquerading as light can en-darken us under false colours of enlightenment:
Matt 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[e] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Likewise, in speaking to the Ephesians, Paul soberingly counselled on the addictive, benumbing, en-darkening nature of worldly lusts leading to futility of thought:
  Eph 4: 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  
 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.  

20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[f] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. [both, ESV]
Worse yet is the c 90 AD Gospel of John, as the surviving member of the twelve reflects back across a lifetime, to his Lord's deeds and teachings c 26 - 30 AD:

  Jn 1: In Him [The Logos, Christ] was life [and the power to bestow life], and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines on in the [c]darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it] . . . .

Jn 3:19 This is the judgment [that is, the cause for indictment, the test by which people are judged, the basis for the sentence]: the Light has come into the world, and people loved the [c]darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For every wrongdoer hates the Light, and does not come to the Light [but shrinks from it] for fear that his [sinful, worthless] activities will be exposed and condemned. 21 But whoever practices truth [and does what is right—morally, ethically, spiritually] comes to the Light, so that his works may be plainly shown to be what they are—accomplished in God [divinely prompted, done with God’s help, in dependence on Him].” [AMP]

Our aim, then, must be to create a sounder -- saner -- system to build thought, hopes and lives on.

Where, it is worth a pause to cite Wikipedia (speaking against general ideological inclination) on objectivity, in further light of Aristotle's key insight in Metaphysics, 1011b, that truth says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not. Compound, our known finite, fallible, morally and intellectually struggling, too often ill-willed nature and we see the relevance of how:
 Objectivity is a philosophical concept of being true independently from individual subjectivity caused by perception, emotions, or imagination. A proposition is considered to have objective truth when its truth conditions are met without bias caused by a sentient subject. [Wikipedia, acc. 2019:11:17]
Let us adapt this, i/l/o a comment I made in a UD exchange on aesthetics:
. . . to be objective we need
[1] a framework that warrants claims as credibly true and so reliable, as well as

[2] a tolerably effective means of detecting and improving on our errors.
None of that requires that the domains so contemplated only comprise concrete, material entities. Or even that we have arrived at comprehensively absolute truth as a body, i.e. while we know some self evident and some other necessary plumb line truths, there is no need to assume or pretend that our system as a whole or for the most part is free of errors. Hence, the concept: improve on.

Here, we may next contrast degrees of truth:
[i] subjective truth as perceived to be so by some individual or group (which is not at all to be dismissively equated with delusion or imagination or whim), with 

[ii] absolute truth which is true, the whole material truth and nothing but that truth (say, as known to God [who knows perfectly and completely]), and again with 

[iii] objective truth, i.e. what we [who are finite and fallible but rational . . . ] may have good warrant and even a duty to hold as credibly and reliably true independent of our particular subjectivity (given the adequacy of the warrants) but which is open in principle to sound correction. 
 This then brings us to the crucial importance of known, inescapable first duties of right reason, to truth, to sound reasoning, to prudence (thus, to warrant), to sound conscience, to fairness and justice etc

Where, warrant is the process and result of so fulfilling cognitive duties of care that the said result is credibly true and reliable, worthy of being acted on -- even, in those cases . . . the vast majority, in practice . . . that we cannot deliver utterly incorrigible certainty. Warrant, is not to be equated with mere persuasion, it is asking if the reason for a belief or opinion is sound or at least reliable (not, that we merely have a personal or collective right to it or that we may agree to accept it). Let us dip a little more deeply, to clarify warrant given the widespread tendencies of subjectivism and/or relativism:
DETAIL POINT: In effect, subjects S1 to Sn may agree to or hold a proposition p, but that is so far only opinion or belief that may be shared. They may also -- a further step -- be within epistemic rights to hold that p, but under certain circumstances . . . explored by Gettier and others . . . that personal justification and actual truth might be "accidentally" or otherwise "unreliably" connected due to circumstances faced by S1 to Sn that fail to justify independent of personalities and their particular situation. (For simple example, our visual, auditory and other senses can lose proper functionality or be in situations that create illusions, etc.) For p to be warranted (and notice the shift from subjects to the propositions), the connexion between epistemic rights and credible truth and reliability must not be accidental or personality/group-dependent. Warrant, in short, must be objective.

This is the context in which we therefore embark on logic, i.e.
LOGIC, DEF'N:  logic is the core philosophical discipline that systematically studies sound argument thus first principles of truth, reason and reliable warrant, exposing along the way the many pitfalls of error and ways of deceit -- that is, fallacies.

DETAIL/ENRICHMENT POINT: For a survey on what Logic is, kindly see an in-a-nutshell focussed on the classic first three laws of thought -- to be discussed further below -- here. Enc. Brit online here, compare Catholic Enc here for a more traditional/Aristotelian review, and a Bible-based 53 pp, pdf discussion for use in home schools here. IEP provides a list of 200+ "major" fallacies here.

Let us now focus first principles of right reason

To do so, let us adapt a remark [--> updated Apr 3, 2015] by W J Murray, of the blog Uncommon Descent, to highlight the significance of what we are about to tackle:
If you do not assume the law of non-contradiction, you have nothing to argue about. If you do not assume the principles of sound reason, you have nothing to argue with. If logic is not assumed to be a causally independent, authoritative arbiter of true statements, there’s no reason to apply it. If you do not assume libertarian free will, you have no one to argue against. If you do not assume morality to be an objective commodity, you have no reason to argue in the first place. If you do not assume mind is primary, there is no “you” to make any argument at all.
Two key components of this process of foundation level comparative difficulties in pursuit of a worldview that is a reasonable faith, are: (i) first principles of right reason, and (ii) warranted, credible (self-evident) truths.

For instance, consider Josiah Royce's subtle but simple claim: error exists.

To try to deny it only ends up giving an instance of its truth; it is undeniably and inescapably true.  

Let's zoom in a bit (using mostly glorified common sense "deduction" and a light dusting of symbols), as this pause for a tighter focus on a pivotal point will help us understand the roots of reasoning and reasonableness. As we have stressed, this is all back to roots, back to sources, back to foundations -- cracked foundations to be fixed. So, in steps of thought:
1: Let us take up, Royce’s Error exists, and symbolise it: E. (Where the denial would be NOT-E, ~E. Error does not exist, in plain English. Don't overlook what, equivalently, ~ E tries to say: "it is an ERROR to hold that error exists." Oops, it seems we can already see why the claim error exists is undeniably true! [And if you are inclined to dispute the use of a singular term "Error," simply kindly consider it to refer to the set E that collects errors, and the like.]) So far, this is rather similar to a point by Epictetus, early C2 AD, when challenged to show the necessity of logic:
How is logic necessary?
When someone in [Epictetus'] audience said, Convince me that logic is necessary, he answered: Do you wish me to demonstrate this to you?—Yes.—Well, then, must I use a demonstrative argument?—And when the questioner had agreed to that, Epictetus asked him. How, then, will you know if I impose upon you?—As the man had no answer to give, Epictetus said: Do you see how you yourself admit that all this instruction is necessary, if, without it, you cannot so much as know whether it is necessary or not? [Cf J. C. Wright]
2: Let us now attempt a conjunction, to draw the force of the Josiah Royce proposition, E, out more formally:
C = { E AND ~E }
3: We have here mutually exclusive, opposed and exhaustive claims that address the real world joined together in a way that tries to say both are so.
4: Common sense, based on wide experience and our sense of how things are and can or cannot be -- to be further analysed below, yielding three key first principles of right reason --  tells us that, instead:
(a) this conjunction C =  { E AND ~E } must be false (so that the CONJUNCTION is a definite case of an error . . . i.e. the set that collects errors is necessarily non-empty), and that
(b) its falsity being relevant to one of the claims,
(c) we may readily identify that the false one is ~E. Which means:
(d) E is true and is undeniably true. (On pain of a breach of common sense.)
5: So, E is true, is known to be true once we understand it and is undeniably true on pain of patent -- obvious, hard to deny -- self contradiction.
6: It is therefore self evident.
7: It is warranted as reliably true, indeed to demonstrative certainty.
8: Where, E refers to the real world of things as such.
9: It is a case of absolute, objective, certainly known truth; a case of certain knowledge. "Justified, true belief," nothing less.
10: It is also a matter of widely observed fact -- starting with our first school exercises with sums and visions of red X's -- confirming the accuracy of a particular consensus of experience. (NB: A lie, or calculated deceit, seeks to gain advantage by misleading others to reject truth and accept falsity; i.e. to commit errors.)
11: So, here we have a certainly known case of truth existing as that which accurately refers to reality.
12: Also, a case of knowledge existing as warranted, credibly true beliefs, in this case to certainty.
13: Our ability to access truth and knowledge about the real, extra-mental world by experience, reasoning and observation is confirmed in at least one pivotal case.
14: Contemporary worldviews — their name is Legion — that would deny, deride or dismiss such [including the point that there are such things as self evident truths that relate to the real world], are thence shown to be factually inadequate and incoherent. They are unable to explain reality.
15: Such worldviews are, as a bloc, falsified by this one key point. They are unreasonable. (And yes, I know this may be hard to accept, but if your favoured system contradicts soundly established facts and/or truths, it is seriously defective.)
16: Of course the truth in question is particularly humbling and a warning on the limits of our knowledge and the gap between belief and truth or even ability to formulate a logical assertion and truth.
17: So, we need to be humble, and — contrary to assertions about how insisting on such objectivity manifests "arrogance" and potentially oppressive "intolerance" – the first principles of right reason (implicit in the above, to be drawn out below) allow us to humbly, honestly test our views so that we can identify when we have gone off the rails and to in at least some cases confirm when our confidence is well grounded.
 So -- while we can be mistaken about it -- truth exists and we can in some cases confidently know it on pain of absurdity if we try to deny it.  

In particular, it is well warranted and credibly true beyond reasonable doubt or dispute that error exists. Truth therefore exists, and knowledge -- i.e. the set of warranted, credibly true [and reliable] claims -- also exists. (As noted already, but it bears repeating as it is hard for some to accept: this cuts a wide swath across many commonly encountered worldview ideas of our time; such as, the idea that there is no truth beyond what seems true to you or me, or that we cannot know the truth on important matters beyond conflicting opinions.) 

Secondly, though we may be in error about just what we are (e.g. suppose we are proverbial brains in vats . . .), we cannot be mistaken that we are conscious, self-aware beings. This can perhaps be most easily seen by comparing our experience of ourselves as being aware -- i.e. conscious selves -- to the obvious point that a rock has no dreams or beliefs:

 That observation has a vital corollary, in a day and age where it is popular to imagine that consciousness can somehow emerge from sufficiently complex parallel and/or looping software riding on complex hardware -- whether in silicon or in a network of nerve cells.  Leibnitz, in his Monadology, 17, put it pretty directly by his analogy of the mill:

[P]erception, and that which depends upon it, are inexplicable by mechanical causes, that is to say, by figures and motions. Supposing that there were a machine whose structure produced thought, sensation, and perception, we could conceive of it as increased in size with the same proportions until one was able to enter into its interior, as he would into a mill. Now, on going into it he would find only pieces working upon one another, but never would he find anything to explain perception.
In short, consciousness cannot be simply reduced to blind mechanical interactions and ordered sequences of such actions. 

Cogs move upon one another with so many Newton-metres of torque and turn through so many degrees as a result, which turning which being a matter of how they are somehow arranged and which was turned first.  Indeed, this is the basis of the mechanical Analogue Computer, in which a rotating ball on a shaft spinning against a disk performs mechanical integration . . . a key Calculus operation, and such devices can be arranged in cascade to carry out solution to complex differential equations:

A Thomson Integrator. The device can be worked with the shaft EE as input or the disk D as input: with D as i/p,   the disk spins the ball, and depending on how far the ball is from the centre of the disk, one disk-turn causes more or less turning effect on the cylinder, affecting the rate  of accumulation of shaft position. 
That incremental, controlled accumulation effects integration. (Cf. Rutherford Journal)

The underlying principle is illustrated by this video:

(Indeed, at the video shows this was the basis of not only tidal prediction machines or the like, but -- grimly -- naval gun aiming computers and computing bomb-sights.)

Where, too: such balls, disks and shafts, obviously, are refined rock. 

They depend on the care and skill of a designer, to be able to solve differential equations. 

Their precisely functional arrangement carries out computations based on intelligent design. Such glorified rocks neither contemplate nor care, and if things go out of whack, they will mindlessly and mechanically deliver incorrect results.  As the old computer men would say: Garbage in, Garbage out: GIGO.

Which points to a further, common but often overlooked fact: complex functionally specific arrangements themselves have but one observed source, design. Which, among other things, has to ensure that GIGO is not at work.

Where also, the notion that such irreducibly complex, finely tuned systems could plausibly arise step by step through chance variations and blind trial and error selection of the incrementally successful intermediaries needs to be demonstrated empirically rather than be implied or assumed as a consequence of taking up an evolutionary materialist view as a controlling idea. And in fact, historically, the development of such machines took years and decades of highly intelligent design, with a huge sustained investment of cash.

A Full Adder, showing how amplifier circuits
(logic gates) are combined to effect an arithmetic
operation. Here, AND, X-OR and OR gates

Likewise in a digital computer, so many volts at a certain point in a specially designed rock -- made of doped Silicon -- mechanically trips gates in a sequence determined by the organisation of solid state electronic components. And just the same, as "a rock has no dreams," it is not surprising that at no point is the resulting process of mechanical and/or electronic computation credibly equal to conscious, self-aware perception, intent, the quality of being appeared to red-ly, truth, falsity, insight-driven inference from if P is so then Q must follow logically in light of meanings, warrant, knowledge, understanding, wisdom or right or wrong. Such are simply categorically distinct from blind mechanical necessity and chance circumstances or disturbances.

Which is one reason why John Searle's Chinese Room thought exercise is so telling as it contrasts genuine understanding, insight and reasoning with blind execution of ordered steps:
Imagine that a person—me, for example—knows no Chinese and is locked in a room with boxes full of Chinese symbols and an instruction book written in English for manipulating the symbols. Unknown to me, the boxes are called “the database” and the instruction book is called “the program.” I am called “the computer.”
People outside the room pass in bunches of Chinese symbols that, unknown to me, are questions. I look up in the instruction book what I am supposed to do and I give back answers in Chinese symbols.
Suppose I get so good at shuffling the symbols and passing out the answers that my answers are indistinguishable from a native Chinese speaker’s. I give every indication of understanding the language despite the fact that I actually don’t understand a word of Chinese.
And if I do not, neither does any digital computer, because no computer, qua computer, has anything I do not have. It has stocks of symbols, rules for manipulating symbols, a system that allows it to rapidly transition from zeros to ones, and the ability to process inputs and outputs. That is it. There is nothing else. [Cf. Jay Richards here.]
Indeed, the well known genetics pioneer and Evolutionist, J B S Haldane, at the turn of the 1930's, astutely observed:
"It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” ["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (Highlight and emphases added.)]
We may update via atheistical Philosopher Alex Rosenberg as he begins Ch 9 of his The Atheist's Guide to Reality (apparently utterly failing to realise what such self referentiality necessarily implies about the credibility of his own thought and writing):
FOR SOLID EVOLUTIONARY REASONS, WE’VE BEEN tricked into looking at life from the inside. Without scientism, we look at life from the inside, from the first-person POV (OMG, you don’t know what a POV is?—a “point of view”). The first person is the subject, the audience, the viewer of subjective experience, the self in the mind.

Scientism shows that the first-person POV is an illusion. Even after scientism convinces us, we’ll continue to stick with the first person. But at least we’ll know that it’s another illusion of introspection and we’ll stop taking it seriously. We’ll give up all the answers to the persistent questions about free will, the self, the soul, and the meaning of life that the illusion generates. 

The physical facts fix all the facts. The mind is the brain. It has to be physical and it can’t be anything else, since thinking, feeling, and perceiving are physical process—in particular, input/output processes—going on in the brain. We can be sure of a great deal about how the brain works because the physical facts fix all the facts about the brain. The fact that the mind is the brain guarantees that there is no free will. It rules out any purposes or designs organizing our actions or our lives. It excludes the very possibility of enduring persons, selves, or souls that exist after death or for that matter while we live. [W W Norton, 2011]
 John Gray, a British academic and writer, in his Straw Dogs (2002), pp. 26 - 27, gives a different angle, further bringing out the self-referential absurdity of trying to root the human mind in materialistic evolutionism and linked scientism (the notion that Science -- usually, as conceived in evolutionary materialistic terms -- monopolises (or effectively monopolises) knowledge, truth and rationality:
Modern humanism is the faith that through science humankind can know the truth – and so be free. But if Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true this is impossible. The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth. To think otherwise is to resurrect the pre-Darwinian error that humans are different from all other animals.

[O]nly someone miraculously ignorant of history could believe that competition among ideas could result in the triumph of truth. Certainly ideas compete with one another but the winners are normally those with power and human folly on their side. Truth has no systematic evolutionary advantage over error.
 Provine, speaking in a 1998 University of Tennessee Darwin Day address, adds:

Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .  
 [--> this inadvertently (and self referentially) implies that we cannot be sufficiently responsibly free that we can choose to follow an argument based on insights on fact, logic and meaning, and a commitment to the truth. So, is Provine saying this because of commitment to truth and responsible, free weing of the facts and logic or because he is under the control of his genes and social- psychological programming, or random chance events?]
 The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .

That is, such reasoning consistently ends in the futility of undermining the credibility of even the presenter and the argument itself. (Cf. here.)

  In short, we are (on pain of self-referential absurdity) undeniably conscious, and are also evidently self-aware, self-moved, embodied beings. Where, the mechanics of embodiment or mechanical processing or computation simply do not suffice to explain that first fact of our existence; conscious self-awareness.  

Where, the term, "self-moved" comes from Plato's insightful discussion in The Laws, Bk X. In so doing, he also makes perhaps the first cosmological design inference on record, to a Good Soul at the root of reality, and especially the material - mechanical order of creation:
Athenian Stranger. . . . when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second. 
[ . . . .]

Ath. If we were to see this power existing in any earthy, watery, or fiery substance, simple or compound-how should we describe it?

Cleinias of Crete. You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power life?

Ath. I do. 

Cle. Certainly we should. 

Ath. And when we see soul in anything, must we not do the same-must we not admit that this is life?

[ . . . . ]

Cle. You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the self-moved is the same with that which has the name soul?

Ath. Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in all things? 

Cle. Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things.

Ath. And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number which you may prefer?  

  Cle. Exactly. 
Ath. Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the body is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, which is the ruler? 
[ . . . . ]
Ath. If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. [ --> Plato here explicitly sets up an inference to design (by a good soul) from the intelligible order of the cosmos.]

Let us remember, too, this was in the background of the exchanges on Mars Hill recorded in Acts 17.

Yes, we have brains which obviously carry out materially connected patterns of information processing using the often surprising properties of neural networks . . .  in which neurons serve as gates for information glows in complex networks that use summed, weighted connexions to trigger stage by stage responses:

But also, that sort of wired up, adaptable network does not suffice to explain -- or, to explain away -- either the effective complex and functionally specific organisation of the brain as a complex functionally specific information processing entity, or --  even more importantly -- the characteristic capacities of that self-aware, self-moved entity or faculty that is our Experienced Fact No. 1 and  which we sometimes speak of in terms of the mind. Or even . . . the soul

Though, many are prone to imagine or assert that it does. 

(If someone does such to you, ask him or her to explain just how it was shown, by whom, when -- and with what prize awarded -- that conscious, self aware, self-reflective mindedness "emerges from" or "reduces to" complex software and hardware. Predictably, such claims and views will trace to the question-begging influence of controlling evolutionary materialist ideas.)

It is probably worth a pause to cite Engineer Derek Smith's two-tier controller cybernetic model for a brain-body system, in which the higher order supervisory controller directs and influences and interacts with the lower one, used as an input-output controller:

 (There is plenty of room in such a model to think about how a mind-brain interface -- if that is the right word -- can happen; perhaps, using quantum influences on the action of selected neurons and networks. Where, what is really needed here is to re-open minds to worldview level live option possibilities that too often tend to be suppressed or dismissed out of hand because of the overbearing influence of materialist philosophies dressed up in lab coats. If someone under that influence tries to dismiss the possibility of realities beyond observable matter, energy, space and time observed through scientific techniques, it may be helpful to ask: and who will be observing, measuring, analysing, hypothesising and testing then concluding, other than: a conscious, self-aware, knowledgeable, purposeful, active, freely acting, responsible investigator thus subject to ethical obligations? Where,

 [a] it is manifest that our rationality is inescapably governed by duties to truth, right reason, prudence [so, warrant], sound conscience, fairness and justice, etc. Indeed, the one who tries to deny or argue against such duties equally inescapably implicitly appeals to our awareness of these duties. If, his argument is to have any persuasive force.  Thus,

 [b] responsible rationality is morally governed and requires bridging the IS-OUGHT gap; which -- on pain of ungrounded ought -- can only be done at the root of reality. So, 

 [c] this already points to the need for an inherently good (and so utterly wise) first cause source of the world and to the consequences of undermining confidence in that root. That is, Rom 1 is right,

[d] turning away from the inherently good and utterly wise creator God undermines and en-darkens one's whole thought world. We are thus back to the Plato's Cave dilemma and linked plausibility frameworks. At this point, in a society whose window of politically acceptable possibilities . . . on a mutinous ship of state . . . has become utterly warped and indeed ruinous, i.e. suicidal:

 The Rom 1 warning is therefore quite stark: "28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God or consider Him worth knowing [as their Creator], God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do things which are improper and repulsive, 29 until they were filled (permeated, saturated) with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil" [AMP])

The mind, even . . . the soul, is thus back on the table once we contrast the self-moved, self-aware with the computational processing of blind mechanisms organised as GIGO-limited  processors. 

In this context it is worth noting how -- as Plantinga observed -- Patricia Churchland (a philosopher writing on cognitive issues) brought forward the consistent point of breakdown of evolutionary materialist attempts to ground rational, reasoning, responsibly free, warranting and knowing mind:
 Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F’s: feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. The principle chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. . . . . Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism’s way of life and enhances the organism’s chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is [--> try, "that which says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not" per Aristotle, Metaphysics 1011b], definitely takes the hindmost. [Epistemology in the age of Neuroscience, p. 549. This is a semi-famous quote.]
In response in Warrant and Proper Function, Plantinga contrasts:
 The traditional theist . . .  has no corresponding reason for doubting that it is a purpose of our cognitive systems to produce true beliefs, nor any reason for thinking the probability of a belief’s being true, given that it is a product of his cognitive faculties, is low or inscrutable. He may indeed endorse some form of evolution; but if he does, it will be a form of evolution guided and orchestrated by God. And qua traditional theist — qua Jewish, Moslem, or Christian theist – he believes that God is the premier knower and has created us human beings in his image, an important part of which involves his endowing them with a reflection of his powers as a knower [-> i.e., imago dei].

Similarly, though it is quite unfashionable to seriously say such nowadays (an indictment of our times . . .), to try to deny the classic three basic principles of right reason -- the law of identity, that of non-contradiction, and that of the excluded middle -- inevitably ends up in absurdity  

Why is that? 

Simple: to think at all, we must be able to distinguish things (or else all would be confusion and chaos), and these laws immediately and inescapably manifest themselves in that first act of distinct thought.  

A builder's plumb-line allows him to test whether a wall
is true (straight) and plumb (accurately vertical).
Cf. Amos 7:7 - 9 for a prophetic rebuke and warning.
The apostle Paul, in dealing with a church discipline problem in Corinth, by way of illustration, gives some profound insights on just how important distinction and clear identity in the midst of diversity are for understanding, reflecting on and communicating about our common world.  

We can term this the plumb-line principle, the one we use to test the quality of our work, even as a plumb-line tests the quality of a wall.

  That may seem an odd place to begin, but we are in an age where many have been indoctrinated to imagine that anything claiming to be authoritative is suspect, likely to be a weapon of oppression
That is in fact a dangerously false principle, but those trapped in it will not be likely to recognise that fact.

So, let us elaborate on the plumb-line principle, contrasting the crooked yardstick:

Yes, Jesus, the Incarnate Logos of Jn 1:1, as logician and epistemologist.
Here, he who is Source of rationally ordered reality, communicative reason himself,
speaks with us about the priority of first truth in ability to think straight, with
onward points that truth can be warranted, and confidently, soundly known truth liberates

It will also help us to bear Paul's thoughts on distinct identity in mind as we proceed:
1 Cor 14:If even inanimate musical instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone [listening] know or understand what is played? And if the war bugle gives an uncertain (indistinct) call, who will prepare for battle?
Just so it is with you; if you in the [unknown] tongue speak words that are not intelligible, how will anyone understand what you are saying? For you will be talking into empty space!
10 There are, I suppose, all these many [to us unknown] tongues in the world [somewhere], and none is destitute of [its own power of] expression and meaning. 11 But if I do not know the force and significance of the speech (language), I shall seem to be a foreigner to the one who speaks [to me], and the speaker who addresses [me] will seem a foreigner to me. [AMP]
Here, we are very close to seeing how the power of self-aware, self-moved mind, language and so also of distinct related symbols and signals that can be communicated from one party to another, work together to enable rational thought and intelligible communication  and mutual understanding. 

All of which crucially rests on the concept of distinct things with particular, distinct identities.

So, now, a diagram showing the world split into two distinct labelled parts, A and NOT-A . . . or we could symbolise { A | NOT-A } . . . will help us see how naturally this happens once we can recognise some distinct entity A:

A bright red ball [A] on a table in a
wider context [NOT-A] in a world, W:
W = { A | NOT-A }  where we can
see that the ball is: { A | NOT-A} (Source)
If at a given moment we distinctly recognise,  identify and label some thing, A -- say, a bright red ball on a table -- we mark a mental border-line and also necessarily identify NOT-A as "the rest of the World." We thus have a definite separation of the World into two parts, and it immediately and undeniably holds from such a world partition that:
(a) the part labelled A will be A given that we can distinctly recognise it in light of its characteristics (symbolically, [A => A] = 1), 
(b) A will not be the same as NOT-A ( [A AND NOT-A] = 0); and
(c) there is no third option to being A or NOT-A ( [A OR NOT-A] = 1).  Or, to be clearer about the significance of the dichotomy in World, W = { A | NOT-A }, let's instead explicitly use the Exclusive OR, AUT not VEL [A Ex-OR NOT-A] = 1. That is A, or not A but not a third option such as A AND NOT-A, and no fourth such as neither A nor NOT-A.
So, we see how naturally the laws of (a) identity, (b) non-contradiction (or, non-confusion!), and (c) the excluded middle swing into action. 

This naturalness also extends to the world of statements that assert that something is true or false, as we may see from Aristotle's classic remark in his Metaphysics 1011b (loading the 1933 English translation):
. . .   if it is impossible at the same time to affirm and deny a thing truly, it is also impossible for contraries to apply to a thing at the same time; either both must apply in a modified sense, or one in a modified sense and the other absolutely.
Nor indeed can there be any intermediate between contrary statements, but of one thing we must either assert or deny one thing, whatever it may be. This will be plain if we first define truth and falsehood. To say that what is is not, or that what is not is, is false; but to say that what is is, and what is not is not, is true; and therefore also he who says that a thing is or is not will say either what is true or what is false. [Emphases added]
 So, we can state the laws in more or less traditional terms, regarding distinct things -- objects, phenomena, states of affairs and the like:
[a'] A distinct thing, A, is what it is (the law of identity [--> such an entity A will be its own specific self given its particular characteristics that mark it apart from anything that is non-A]); 
[b'] A distinct thing, A, cannot at once be and not-be (the law of non-contradiction);
[c'] A distinct thing, A, is or it is not, but not both or neither (the law of the excluded middle).
In short, the diagram helps take the "mystery" out of the laws, showing us why they make sense once we can identify some distinct thing A and mentally mark it off from its context, NOT-A. [Cf. responses to objections  here.]  

In 1011b, too, Ari gives us a bonus, by aptly defining truth: 
[def'n. 1, of truth:]  to say that what is is, and what is not is not, is true.
(F/N: As a note for logicians who may pass by: we are here specifically speaking with reference to the experienced world of credibly real things [including, of course, abstract entities such as numbers etc], so extensions to empty-set contexts in which questions over contrasted empty sets -- that is, quite literally: no-thing --  arise, are irrelevant for the moment. That is, we deal here with the classic square of opposition. Courtesy Wikipedia, which very helpfully renders in terms of Venn diagrams illuminating that classic syllogisms are about assertions regarding set membership:
Then, once we see what follows from dealing with a world of real categories with at least one member each (or at least where affirmative assertions are taken to have existential import), we may then extend to the case of empty sets and see how much of a difference this possibility makes. Thence the issue that a universal quantification All A is B or No A is B does not have existential import, and the subtlety that an existential quantification, e.g. some x is A, does have existential import. [Logicians should also note Terence Parsons' rehabilitative argument here at SEP. It turns out that if we accept the natural language force of the A form [top left], All S is P -- that S is non-empty, and render the O form [bottom right], as not every S is P (following Ackrill's rendering of Aristotle in De Interpretatione 6–7 and with reference to Prior Analytics I.2, 25a.1–25 also) then the classical square of opposition is fully valid. As he goes on to observe: "On this view affirmatives have existential import, and negatives do not—a point that became elevated to a general principle in late medieval times.[6] The ancients thus did not see the incoherence of the square as formulated by Aristotle because there was no incoherence to see."])
We may examine Kelly Ross' arch of logic, showing how such first principles integrate reasoning:

Arch of logic, HT Hebrew for Christians

UD blog  contributor Stephen B sometimes gives an apt, three perspective summary of the pivotal law of non-contradiction, e.g. here:
[If] an object has an essence or a nature, we do, in fact, know what it is by virtue of having abstracted its universal “whatness” from the particular we encounter through our senses.

In other words, the law of non-contradiction is true
  • ontologicallya thing is what it is and cannot also be something else at the same time and in the same way.
  • logically–a proposition about that thing cannot be true and false at the same time and in the same way.
  • psychologically–a proposition about that thing cannot seem to be true and false at the same time and in the same way.

It is worth noting, also, how Wikipedia -- speaking against the known general ideological trend of that well known reference site -- remarks on these laws, c. Feb 2012, in an article on the laws of thought tracing to Dec 2004:
 The law of non-contradiction and the law of excluded middle are not separate laws per se, but correlates of the law of identity. That is to say, they are two interdependent and complementary principles that inhere naturally (implicitly) within the law of identity, as its essential nature . . .   whenever we ‘identify’ a thing as belonging to a certain class or instance of a class, we intellectually set that thing apart from all the other things in existence which are ‘not’ of that same class or instance of a class. In other words, the proposition, “A is A and A is not ~A” (law of identity) intellectually partitions a universe of discourse (the domain of all things) into exactly two subsets, A and ~A, and thus gives rise to a dichotomy. As with all dichotomies, A and ~A must then be ‘mutually exclusive’ and ‘jointly exhaustive’ with respect to that universe of discourse. In other words, ‘no one thing can simultaneously be a member of both A and ~A’ (law of non-contradiction), whilst ‘every single thing must be a member of either A or ~A’ (law of excluded middle).
What’s more . . .  thinking entails the manipulation and amalgamation of simpler concepts in order to form more complex ones, and therefore, we must have a means of distinguishing these different concepts. It follows then that the first principle of language (law of identity) is also rightfully called the first principle of thought, and by extension, the first principle reason (rational thought) . . . 
 That is, once we identify something, A, as there or potentially there, we have reason to see that it has an identity, that it is distinct from other things and if it exists it cannot at the same time and sense not exist

A unicorn- a possible being
If A is a unicorn -- which does not presently exist in our world [but which, thanks to genetic manipulation probably will within 100 years, at least as a novelty people will be willing to pay good money to see or to own . . . ] then A cannot simultaneously in the same sense not be a unicorn. And that we can recognise that something is NOT a unicorn, does imply that a "unicorn" is a potential thing with distinct identity. That is, it is a possible being with a coherent set of defining attributes, and could be actual. Though presently, it is not.

We should also note that a fourth key law of sound thought linked quite directly to the above is the principle of sufficient reason , which enfolds  the principle of cause and effect

Schopenhauer in his Manuscript Remains, Vol. 4, notes that:  
[PSR, strong form:] "Of everything that is, it can be found why it is."
This, a principle that what is, is ultimately intelligible, i.e. rational -- in an era where the non-rational, material is often held to be prior to mind -- is enormously controversial. For, it is extremely powerful and suggests that mind is the root of reality. Accordingly, things derived primarily from that power will often be viewed as in effect question-begging. 

Also, the suggestion of "brute facts," actualities without explanation, will be put on the table as though that ends inquiry. Especially, if a dusting of chance and quantum can be tossed on.

 (Where, of course, Quantum theory is an intellectual inquiry and that something is prone to a probability distribution is itself a rational principle inviting onward inquiry: ponder why a specific, predictable and often stable quantitative pattern of possible outcomes should attach itself to a given entity, situation or phenomenon. And the issue of onward inquiry is by now familiar, it looks to infinite regress; but if there are self-explanatory, necessary beings that are framework to reality, that does offer a satisfactory terminus, as we shall explore.)

However, we need not try to defend a strong form PSR. 

Instead, we may soften the PSR slightly into a weak form investigatory version that should be unobjectionable to reasonable thinkers . . . thus avoiding unnecessary side issues over the PSR, and that weak form will prove quite adequate for our purpose. It is:
 [PSR, weak (investigatory) form:] Of any particular thing A that is
[. . . or (ii) is possible, or even (iii) is impossible],
we may ask, why it is
[. . . or (ii') why it is possible, or (iii') why it is impossible],
and we may expect -- or at least hope -- to find a reasonable answer.
 Of course, for any given case, X, we may simply directly proceed to ask 'why is X so,' or 'why is X possible' or 'why is X impossible,' and seek a reasonable answer. So, the weak form as it stands is clearly unobjectionable. 

We may summarise what we have won:

And if one imagines there may be an infinite regress of contingent beings 
. . . x -1, x, x + 1, . . .

as the ultimate explanation, the answer is that we must consider the case of a candidate necessary being, say N, as will now follow.   

The fire tetrahedron (an extension of the classic fire triangle you may have learned about in Boy Scouts or the like . . . ) is a helpful case to study briefly in order to amplify and draw out the surprising force of the sphinx-like riddle posed by the weak-form PSR: 

For a fire to begin or to continue, we need (1) fuel, (2) heat, (3) an oxidiser [usually oxygen] and (4) an un- interfered- with heat-generating chain reaction mechanism. (For, Halon fire extinguishers work by breaking up the chain reaction.) 

Each of the four factors is necessary for, and the set of four are jointly sufficient to begin and sustain a fire. We thus see four contributory factors, each of which is necessary [knock it out and you block or kill the fire], and together they are sufficient for the fire. 

A lighted match (HT:
Gateway Care Training, UK)
This may be studied by lighting a match. For instance, strike one, and let it half burn. Then, tilt the head up. Watch the flame fade out for want of an ON/OFF enabling factor, fuel. 

Similarly, if one pulls a second match and instead of wiping on the friction-strike strip, moves it rapidly through the air -- much lower friction -- it will not light for want of heat. If we were to try to strike a match in pure Nitrogen instead of air, it might flare at first (depending on what is in the head) but the main fuel, wood will not burn for want of a good oxidiser. And so forth. 

As a similar exercise, one may set a candle stub in a tray of water and light it. Then, put a jar over the candle, such that water can be drawn up into it. After a little while, the candle will go out for want of the oxidiser in air, Oxygen.

(One should do the actual experiment, at least to the stage of making a match fade out. Many of us will have done this or the like in school. [And, as quantum phenomena are often posed as a great mysterious counter-example to the logic of our everyday world, we should note that a fire is doubly a quantum phenomenon. First, the rapid oxidation reaction, and second the emission of photons of light, which makes the process visible to us. Indeed, we should note how creators of fireworks add particular chemicals to the mix to get desired colours, and more seriously a spectroscope can allow us to learn much about a fire by revealing its spectrum.  And, enabling causal factors such as those  in the fire tetrahedron are pervasive in quantum processes, e.g. -- and yes this is trivial, but the trivial sometimes also makes a key point -- no unstable atom, no radioactive decay, and the like; cf. here for more.])

We thus see by definite and instructive example, the principle of cause and effect. That is, 

[d'] if something has a beginning or may cease from being -- or, generally it is contingent -- it has a cause.
 Common-sense rationality, decision-making and science alike are founded on this principle of right reason: if an event happens, why -- and, how? If something begins or ceases to exist, why and how? If something is sustained in existence, what factors contribute to, promote or constrain that effect or process, how? 

The answers to these questions are causes.

Without the reality behind the concept of cause the very idea of laws of nature would make no sense: events would happen anywhere, anytime, with no intelligible reason or constraint.  

As a direct result, neither rationality nor responsibility would be possible; all would be a confused, unintelligible, unpredictable, uncontrollable chaos with nothing having a stable existence or identity.  That is, this principle is directly linked to the identity cluster already outlined. Indeed, it can be noted that if something A is possible, its defining attributes must be coherent, unlike the contradictions between requisites of squarishness and circularity that render a square circle impossible:

One and the same object cannot be circular and squarish in the same
sense and place at the same time

Also, since it often comes up, yes: a necessary, ON/OFF enabling causal factor is a causal factor -- if there is no fuel, the car cannot go because there is no energy source for the engine. Similarly, without an unstable nucleus or particle, there can be no radioactive decay and without a photon of sufficient energy, there can be no photo-electric emission of electrons: that is, contrary to a common error, quantum mechanical events or effects, strictly speaking, are not cause-less.

(By the way, the concept of a miracle -- something out of the ordinary that is a sign that points to a cause beyond the natural order -- in fact depends on there being such a general order in the world. In an unintelligible chaos, there can be no extra-ordinary signposts, as nothing will be ordinary or regular!)

However, there is a subtle facet to this, one that brings out the other side of  the principle of sufficient reason. 

Namely, that
[logical possibility:] there is a possible class of being that does not have a beginning, and cannot go out of existence; such necessary beings are self-sufficient, have no enabling, ON/OFF external necessary causal factors, and as such cannot be blocked from existing. And it is held that once there is a serious candidate to be such a necessary being, if the candidate is not contradictory in itself, it will be actual.  

[Such a thing/being is possible if it is not impossible . . . as a square circle is impossibly self contradictory as the necessary attributes for something to be squarish and those required for it to be circular stand in mutual contradiction.] 

Where, also, we may ponder what such beings are. That is,  why could such necessary beings exist? The answer comes back:
[necessary, world-framework beings:] a good reason why necessary beings are present in every possible world is, that they are part of the framework for any particular, distinct world to exist. For example, it is impossible for a distinct world W to be without some factor A that distinguishes it from a near neighbour W', i.e. W = {A|~A}, thus we see duality, two-ness as a necessary, world-framing factor. There is no distinct possible world in which such two-ness does not exist. Thus, the number two and its relatives (together with the relationships that are so crucial to Mathematics) are an integral part of the framework for any distinct world. That is, there is no world W in which 2 does not exist, or somehow began to exist at some point or can cease from existing. This world-framework property gives core Mathematics its almost magical universal applicability and power. (See discussion here and further exploration here.) We also see here an eternal, indestructible property of such world-framework beings or entities. So too, if a world now is, something of worlds framing character always was and shall always be.


Or, we could arrive at effectively the same point another way, one which brings out what it means to be a serious candidate to be a necessary being:

If a thing does not exist it is either that it could, but just doesn't happen to exist [--> it is contingently possible but causal conditions are in key part absent], or that it cannot exist because it is a conceptual contradiction [--> not possible of being], such as square circles, or round triangles and so on. Therefore, if it does exist, it is either that it exists contingently or that it is not contingent but exists necessarily (that is it could not fail to exist without contradiction).
[--> The truth reported in "2 + 3 = 5" is a simple case in point; it could not fail without self-contradiction and it is built into the framework of requisites for any world to exist. A world, manifestly, is so all genuinely necessary, world framework entities exist. Were such absent there would be no world at all and there would be no one present to be thinking about the matter. Absence of necessary beings is inconsistent with there being a world.]
These are the four most basic modes of being [--> crossing, [1] possible vs [2] impossible and [3] contingent vs [4] non-contingent] and cannot be denied . . . the four modes are the basic logical deductions about the nature of existence.
That is, for a successful candidate necessary being:
causal independence, eternality property:  since there is no external ON/OFF enabling causal factor, a successful candidate necessary being will exist without a beginning, and cannot cease from existing as one cannot "switch off" a sustaining external factor. 
As a simple example the true proposition 2 + 3 = 5 and its constituent numbers are such necessary beings. To see that, try to imagine a world where, 2, 3, 5 and the operation of abstractly joining 2 and 3 to form 5 did not exist or can cease from existing, or where it is false that || + ||| --> |||||.

Another possibility of course is that such a candidate being is impossible: it cannot be so as there is the sort of inescapable contradiction  of defining attributes; as, is involved in being a proposed square circle.  For, realities must be so together, they must be mutually compatible. 

Here, what is required to be squarish -- equal length straight sides and four right angle vertices -- and what is required to be circular cannot be met by the same one object at the same time. A square circle is impossible of being, there is no possible world in which a given planar object can be both a square and a circle at once. 

That is, we here see that the requirement of a thing being itself leads to its having characteristics that are mutually compatible. This means that logical considerations are relevant to what is or can be or is impossible of being. And, that extends to the logic of structure and quantity, embracing also space, change rates and accumulations etc, i.e. the core substance of Mathematics that applies to a given possible world. That is, we can now glimpse why Mathematics should be so important in the sciences: the logic of being includes aspects which are structural and quantitative -- as we saw from contrasting a square and a circle.

Another famous case is the right angle triangle, e.g. a 3-4-5 triangle which must have a right angle at the vertex of the 3 and 4 sides:

Pythagoras famously proved that for a right angle triangle, squares on the hypotenuse have an area equal to the sum of the areas of the squares on the other two sides. With the help of Lego-type bricks, we can therefore see an amazing, necessarily true result for the 3-4-5 triangle:

This result reflects a world that is pervaded by rational, intelligible principles that are reflected in what things can or do exist, why some things can never exist, and how things may happen. 

For further example, ponder how a square wave oscillation can be built up from sinusoids related by frequencies that are whole number multiples of one another, as Fourier showed:

 Where, our ears use this phenomenon so that our hearing is based on sensing frequencies involved in a sound. For, the cochlea uses a coiled membrane carrying sensitive hair cells in an array, where the stiffness varies along its length, so that the peak response moves along the coil depending on frequency. This pattern is then transferred to the brain by nerves connected to the hair cells:

And yes, this sort of phenomenon has long invited people to ponder that a great, logical and mathematical Mind lies behind reality -- a Mind that made us as rational also. 

(Though, we are obviously limited by being finite, fallible, morally struggling . . . which implies, morally governed . . . and too often ill-willed or even stubborn. Let us also recognise, that, inescapably, our rational thought is governed by manifest duties to truth, to prudence (so, too, to warrant), to sound conscience, to neighbourliness, to fairness, to justice etc. This already implies that our minds operate on both sides of the IS-OUGHT gap, and that this gap must be bridged, which can only be done at the world-root. This points to the need for a world root entity that is inherently good, thus capable of adequately grounding the oughtness of such duties. Below, we will further explore the grounding of morality.)

So then,
 [logical requisites of necessary being:] we have candidates to be necessary beings that may not be possible on pain of contradiction, or else that may not be impossible, equally on pain of contradiction. Linked, such beings are part of the requisite framework for any distinct possible world to exist.

Thus also:
[cor:] the law of non-contradiction is inextricably entangled into possibility of being, and thence into cause and effect. Attempts to sever the two are wrong-headed and inevitably fail.

A flying spaghetti monster
knitted doll, showing how
this is used to mock
the idea of God as
necessary being (note
the words on the chalk board)
Of course, something like "a flying spaghetti monster" -- which would be built of components and depends on their particular arrangement to be what it would be, is not a serious candidate to be a necessary being. (NB: Such has been suggested in dismissive parody of the iconic creation of Adam that appears in Michelangelo's famous Sistine Chapel painting. God, of course is symbolised in that painting as an Old Man, the Ancient of Days, but that is just a representation. God is a serious  -- nay, the most serious -- candidate to be a necessary being.)

In addition, since matter as we know it (such as what goes into spaghetti and noodles as well as eye-stalks and eyes) is contingent, a necessary being will not be material. The likely candidates are: (a) numbers such as 2, (b)  abstract, necessarily true propositions and (c) an eternal mind . . .  often brought together by suggesting that (d) such abstract truths or entities are held in and eternally contemplated by such a mind

It is worth amplifying the case of 2 and related concepts as the core substance of mathematics is about a vast array of necessary entities and relationships present in (and shaping possibilities through the logic of being) for any possible world. 
This is of course tied to the power of Mathematics in understanding and affecting our own world: Mathematics, being both a study or discipline of scholarship and the substance addressed by that study: the logic of structure and quantity. So the directly following are important in their own right also. 

Pardon, what immediately follows is not generally taught in our schools, even though it sits just next door to what is routinely taught.

Now, for argument, consider an empty world with no physical/spatial extension; in effect a collection of mutually coherent propositions that define sufficiently some possible world, W. To see how numbers are real in such, consider the well-known empty set, which collects nothing: { }, which is a particular, distinct entity. Of course as (following Leibniz) we can see that indiscernible things are identical, so there is just one such null set. Then, secondly consider -- all of this is a mental, abstract exercise -- the following steps, following the famous Austrian-American Mathematician, John von Neumann:
i: Assign { } the symbol, 0:  { } --> 0

ii: collect 0 as the sole member of the set 1: { 0 } --> 1

iii: Similarly, collect these to get 2: { 0, 1 } --> 2. Where too, as 0 and 1 are distinct, we see that, more broadly, once distinct identity exists so we may contrast A and not-A [= ~A] in a distinct possible world, then world W = {A|~A}. Where,
A is some unique aspect of W that marks it out as different from any close neighbour say V.
Then, 2 must exist in any such distinct possible world. As, A is one unit and ~A another unit that is different (and actually will be complex if {A|~A} is the set of characteristics of W, some in common with V and other possible worlds but A at least is unique to W). That is how we see W as distinct from V etc. 
What we may call "two-ness" or duality is therefore inescapably part of the framework for a world to exist. For ANY distinct world.  
The number 2 thus exists without a beginning or cause,  nor can it cease from being -- it is a necessary being, part of the framework for any distinct world to exist or potentially exist. We cannot create a possible world in which 2 would not exist, given the abstract steps so far!
iv: This recognition of the reality of numbers can continue indefinitely stepwise in a successive set extension that gives successors stage by stage to yield the Natural Numbers, N. Following von Neumann (also, see here and here):
{} --> 0
{0} --> 1
{0,1} --> 2
{0,1,2} --> 3
. . .
{0,1,2,3 . . . } --> OMEGA, the first transfinite ordinal
(being, "the order type of the natural numbers"; cf. here)

v: For the more mathematically inclined (fair warning . . . !), this can be extended by defining fractions and decimals to express Real and Complex numbers, by setting any real number as being a composite, WHOLE + FRACTION, where:
Fraction = 0 + b1/10 + b2/100 + b3/1,000 + . . .
. . . so that we get say 19.79 etc with the usual meanings. From which we can now go all the way to the surreal number system, which brings in "numbers great and small," negative, positive, finite, transfinite and infinitesimal, through cumulative stepwise increments:

. . . and where also we may define a complex number c = p + i*q, i being the square root of minus 1 (very useful in Math) and where p and q are real numbers. So we can have the complex number 1.978 + i*19.79.
And, as we can see that for any two "neighbouring" points u and v defined on such whole + fraction terms (which differ by some tiny amount, e), we can always extend to a number between them, by adding in more terms -- or, simply, by taking the average (u + v)/2.
This then extends, as we may consider an arbitrary real number d, and equally arbitrary close left hand and right hand neighbours l and r. For any given l or r we may have another specific number l' or r' that is closer in value to d and which is also a legitimate real number. That is, there is no definite nearest neighbour to d on either side, there is no gap between d and its "nearest" neighbours. So real numbers take up any and all values along the line we represent numbers on, forming a continuum. (We also suggest that we may define a number as the limiting value of ever closer "pincers" closing in in ever finer steps from left and right. That is what the surreals diagram above shows.)
That is, we have here defined a continuum, the Real Numbers, where we are taking in the negatives as simply the reversal of the positives such that w + [-w] = 0.
(We have also hinted at the irrational numbers, reals that cannot be written as ratios of whole numbers say Q = P/R. Irrationals may be represented as decimal numbers that continue without end and without cycles of repeating digits such as we may remember from doing long division exercises. That is, they are limits reached by infinitely continued sums of power series based on the place value notation, as the surreals sketch above illustrates: omega steps to reach the reals line. Famous irrationals include pi and the square root of 2. Yes pi is NOT 22/7 or 3.14159 [which has an implicit cycle of 0's following': 3.14159000 . . . ] or any other common approximation.)

vi: Now, for a complex number, c = p + i*q,  i*q is often assigned to a Y-axis and p the X-axis, so that p and i*q can be plotted on the Argand plane, aka Complex plane:

The abstract Argand plane with real and imaginary axes, and a complex number Z
with its complement. Notice, how we now have an abstract space, C, with the angle
to the real axis definable on the trigonometry of r, x and y, via sin, cos and tan
 We can then draw a vector r from the origin, to the point defined by the co-ordinates. Then, angles made by such a vector can then be defined relative to the X-axis from the usual trig ratios, and rotations can be defined, introducing time, t. By Pythagoras' theorem, of course r^2 = p^2 + q^2, defining the magnitude (length) of r. BTW, a rotating vector is called a phasor.
Now, it is worth pausing to establish complex numbers as  2-d vectors in the plane.
First, notice that any positive x in R can be seen as the tip of a position vector going from 0 to x on the real number line, and any negative x' would be a similar vector going leftwards. Now, identify an operation i*  that takes vector 0x and rotates it through one right angle counterclockwise, along the y-axis. Next, do i*[i*x], which puts us to -x on the real axis.
This means i*i = -1, that is we see that i = sqrt(-1) emerges naturally from a vector-rotation approach.
Now, let the angle phi in the chart above be w.t, w being a rate of rotation. We now have a rotating vector. Any complex number z considered as a vector of magnitude R and angle phi to the oX axis can be represented as z = R angle [phi], and this can be shown -- by using power series -- to be equivalent to z = R e^ (i*wt).
So, by using complex exponentials, we have a rotating vector representation of complex numbers, which takes out a lot of the strangeness of complex numbers. Where, an interesting further result of this approach is what happens when wt is two right angles, or pi radians.
We get the famous Euler identity:
0 = 1 + e^i*pi
That is, the five most important numbers in Mathematics are exactly locked together to infinite precision, integrating several major domains of structure and quantity which we find as embedded in the world around us in a coherent whole. 
(That is actually reassuring in an era where after Godel, we have reason to see that no axiomatic system comparably complex to that for Arithmetic will be complete and coherent, and that there is no constructive procedure to create an axiomatic system that, though known to be limited, is guaranteed coherent. Yes, mathematicians, too, must live by the confident risk on reasonable evidence that we term faith. As do scientists in a world where theories are inferences to best current explanation, subject to correction and even discarding in light of fresh observations or logical-mathematical critique.)

vii: Similarly, we can extend to three dimensions [using the i, j, k unit vectors along x, y and z axes], and allow a virtual particle p -- notice, we are now in the world of contingent possibilities -- to traverse on set coherent laws of motion, including introducing mass, force, momentum, energy etc.  in what is now a virtual model world.

viii: Bodies in such a world would be collections of linked particles, even as geometrical figures are clusters of linked points.

ix: We now have a three dimensional virtual reality with a physics! (Computer graphics uses techniques related to this outline sketch.)
x: This can then move to the or a real world by instantiation. This would of course require a creator with the skill, knowledge, intent and power to move from contemplated virtual worlds to instantiated actual ones. Going further, we may ponder that God could conceive and contemplate an unlimited range of possible worlds and may physically instantiate those he pleases to. (This means that a multiverse of possible worlds would be contemplated by God, and that our actual, experienced one needs not be the only physically realised one. Or, at least in principle, some worlds may be realised in other ways that do not depend on a physical substrate -- including a computing entity running a simulation.)

xi: As a corollary, it is worth noting on the parallel lines postulate of Euclidean Geometry. It is often said that the fact of non-Euclidean Geometry renders moot the idea that parallel lines never meet, which is equivalent to the angle sun triangle assertion that the sum of the three angles is 180 degrees of arc. Just look on how triangles on Earth's surface can sum to a different value, and how parallels of longitude converge at the poles:

xii: But, a subtlety lurks. Parallel lines lie in a flat plane, as is specified by the vertices of a triangle, say ABC. (Such a plane can be set up algebraically using the Argand plane, with origin at say vertex A and 0X axis along the line  AB, so we can define a vector of arbitrary length r pivoting from A within the plane and rotate it to sweep the plane, guaranteed to be flat by the mathematics involved. And with a spot of thought, this can be extended to the three-dimensional case.)

xiii: Within the plane, straight lines can be specified by the usual expression y = m*x + c, and for a given m, the slopes will be the same for a family of lines with a range of values of c, say c0, c1, c2, . . . cn. These lines will therefore be parallel, separated by the fact that 0Y-intercept is c and oX-intercept will be -c/m. The triangle between the origin, the 0Y and 0X intercepts will specify that the triangles for c0, c1 etc are similar, and the lines for two different values ci and cj will have a guaranteed separation linked to the value of cj - ci at any given point along the lines.

xiv: That is, within a Euclidean, planar space, parallel lines indeed will never meet. Spaces where this fails are not planar. Hence the following from Wolfram Math World:

In three dimensions, there are three classes of constant curvature geometries. All are based on the first four of Euclid’s postulates, but each uses its own version of the parallel postulate. The “flat” geometry of everyday intuition is called Euclidean geometry (or parabolic geometry), and the non-Euclidean geometries are called hyperbolic geometry (or Lobachevsky-Bolyai-Gauss geometry) and elliptic geometry (or Riemannian geometry). Spherical geometry is a non-Euclidean two-dimensional geometry. It was not until 1868 that Beltrami proved that non-Euclidean geometries were as logically consistent as Euclidean geometry.
xv: So, equidistant straight lines in the same flat plane will be at the same separation anywhere. That is locked into what parallel means in this context -- and to shift from such a world without notice is a case of equivocation, i.e. there has been a subtle shift in the meaning of triangle and parallel.

xvi: In other words, the dismissive assertion that this fifth Euclidean postulate does not hold (as was used to create non-Euclidean Geometries) is equivalent to leaving such a space, e.g. cf. a “triangle” on the curved surface of the earth. The problem was that evidently such spaces had not been thought through as possible. Where also of course, post Relativity, whether the world we live in in the large scale is Euclidean is doubtful, but in the small scale it is sufficiently close that it suggested the idea of such a space.

xvii: This little excursus shows us how the astonishing relevance and power of Mathematics in analysing the physical world can be easily explained on the use of such mathematics as the means of contemplating and creating the world, by God.  Again, God is the best candidate explanation of a world in which mathematics (necessarily including logic) shows such astonishing power.

An eternal mind that is all-knowing and capable of such contemplation, reasoning and creation etc, is of course one way of describing God.

This also brings up a perhaps surprising corollary; once we recall that
[necessity of necessary beings:] if a candidate necessary being is possible of existence (unlike a square circle), it exists in at least one possible world W. But, if necessary, then framework to any possible world and existing on pain of contradiction (thus rendering W not possible of being). Therefore, a necessary being will be present in any given world, which as we saw lends great power to Mathematics (as just one domain pivoting on such beings).

So, now, an astonishing worldview level result directly follows: 
[Cor, God as necessary, framework being for all worlds:] IF God is a serious candidate necessary being [which is generally granted] THEN, if God is possible, he is actual. That is, the denial of the existence of God [which can be by rhetorical dismissal] in fact implies that one effectively considers God an impossible being. Atheists should note that warranting such a stringent claim entails a pretty serious intellectual responsibility.
Strange thoughts, perhaps, but not absurd ones.

So also, if we live in a cosmos that (as the cosmologists tell us) seems -- on the cumulative balance of evidence -- to have had a beginning, then it too is credibly contingent, thus caused. 

The sheer undeniable actuality of our cosmos all around us then points to the principle that nothingness has no causal powers
[e'] from non-being, nothing springs: from a genuine nothing -- NO-Thing or non-being (As Aristotle put it: "what rocks dream of" . . . such have no dreams of course . . . ) -- not matter, not energy, not space, not time, not mind etc. -- nothing can or will come. That is, were there ever utter nothingness, such would forever obtain, therefore if a world now is, SOMETHING always was as a necessary, world-/ reality- root being. The question is, of what nature.

So then, if we can see things that credibly have had a beginning or may come to an end; in a cosmos of like character, we reasonably and even confidently infer that a necessary being is the ultimate, root-cause of our world; even through suggestions such as a multiverse (which would simply multiply the contingent beings).   Where, too, no, an infinite past succession of finite, causally cumulative stages:

. . . x-1, x, x+1, . . . now . . . --> 

is not a good candidate world-root. 

((Detail, WHY: For, once we see that this implies traversing an infinite span in steps, we can easily enough see that any actual past x that can succeed in actually successive steps x+1, x+2 . . .  -- think, years for convenience --  to now will be finitely remote. That's because after any finite x+k, the kth step leads to k+1, k+2 etc.; which acts as though k were 0 and we were beginning 0, 1, 2, 3 . . . all over again:

A punched paper tapes model of stepwise succession.
Notice, how starting from k matches a start from 0, 1:1
(This is actually one way to see that the set is infinite)
The attempted task becomes a futile supertask. We can indeed keep going beyond x or k but any further step we actually count up to will be finitely remote from where we started counting. (Where, plainly, we can freely begin counting from any actual past point or stage x to its causal successor x+1 and so forth.) We can point onward without limit but will never complete an actually transfinite traverse in finite-sized steps. If x is explicitly or implicitly transfinitely remote from now, we cannot bridge from it to now in such steps.

Similarly, if someone claims instead that at any x, the infinite traverse of actual past stages has already happened, that amounts to begging the question of making an infinite traverse; assuming what was to be shown. We can explore that by using an extension of the real numbers R mileposted by the natural counting numbers N, that is R*, namely the hyperreals. Actually, when Math teachers talk about pointing to infinity or about infinitesimals, they are suggesting this extension
(often, without realising it . . . we are going deep here [cf. here for a discussion and here for a paper, an article is here])

Professor Carol Wood (a student of the famed Abraham Robinson) makes a good introduction:

In effect, consider the extended number line:

 . . . 0 - 1 - 2 - 3 - . . . - H - H+1 - . . .
Here, H is a number so large (it is transfinite) that 1/H = h is closer to 0 than 1/n for any natural we can count up to. H is a transfinite hyperreal, and h is an infinitesimal; which can then be used to develop Calculus using Non-Standard Analysis, as Robinson did in the 1960's; these "tamed" infinitesimals turn Calculus into in effect extended algebra, dx is now a number, x + dx is altered from x by adding the infinitesimal dx. We may then take the mirror image negatives to take in both sides of the extended number line.
The hyperbolic function y = 1/x
We can take -H and add 1, (-H + 1), then +2 etc. We will see that we will never be able to successively add some nth step counted up to from +1, +2, +3 etc so that (-H +n) = 0Notice, instead, we used the hyperbolic function  y = 1/x to catapult across numbers we can count, to unite transfinites [H etc], finites [n etc] and infinitesimals [h etc] in a unified, extended number line christened the hyperreals.

There is thus, no definable natural number n-1 so that its immediate successor, n, is transfinite. That's why in the von Neumann construction we go {0,1,2, 3 . . .} --> OMEGA, the first transfinite ordinal. The three-dot ellipsis tells us we cannot actually complete the succession in steps.

In short, every actual past time that allows us to actually successively step forward to now will be finitely remote.
Where, as moving x to x+1 is a causal succession, we can only traverse the span of the past like that.

And, if we suggest the number of such actually traversed past stages rises beyond any n we can count up to, that implies a transfinite past of steps that cannot have been be traversed step by cumulative step. 

So, we can freely hold that a proposed infinite past -- and yes, such has been suggested -- is not a reasonable explanation for the world-root.))

Of course, God is the main candidate to be such a world-/ reality- root level necessary being. (As we saw, truths that are eternal in scope, i.e. true propositions, are another class of candidates, and are classically thought of as being eternally resident in the mind of God.) 

On such first principles of right reason and warranted credible truths, one way to summarise the basic cumulative theistic case  -- the case for God as the key necessary being who is the ground of reality -- would therefore be:
a: Worldviews are not subject of deductive proof, as they address many matters of fact, so they can only be warranted on a cumulative case basis, in the context of key evidence, inference to best of competing live option explanations, and comparative difficulties.
b: Such an argument works analogously to a rope: thin, short individual fibres are twisted together to make a strand, and several strands are braided or counter-twisted together to form a much longer, stronger rope that depends on the mutual support of the components for its overall strength.
c: In short, it is a relevant instance of the fallacy of composition to assume or infer that by attacking one or a few individual components and/or highlighting its particular difficulties without considering the alternatives and their difficulties, one can dispose of and dismiss a worldview case.
(But of course, if one has indeed cut through at least one major strand of a worldview's case, then the system as a whole may be destabilised and decisively weakened. A fraying rope dangling by a single strand is proverbially unstable and unreliable. That is the reason why it was emphasised above that we do have self-evident, undeniable -- thus certainly knowable -- truths such as that error exists [or that 2 + 3 = 5 i.e. ||  + ||| --> |||||], and that the first principles of right reason connected to the identity and existence of things such as a bright red ball on a table, are also self-evident and undeniable on pain of reduction to absurdity. Systems of thought that cannot solidly address or answer to such truths or try to reject them, are decisively weakened. Unfortunately today, there  are many such systems.)

(Likewise, let me cite UD blog's resident Philosopher, Dr Vincent J Torley [VJT], on several types and/or degrees of certainty relevant to arguing that one may responsibly and rationally certain that one knows that God exists. These allow us to discuss how we may be certain or sufficiently confident in degree of warrant that we are reasonably, responsibly justified in confidently thinking, speaking, arguing and acting as though something is true:
 Many people think of certainty as an all-or-nothing affair: you’re either certain of a fact or you’re not. But certainty comes in degrees: for instance, the certainty I have of the propositions of arithmetic is quite different from a jury’s certainty beyond reasonable doubt [ --> i.e.  moral certainty in a context of anglophone, Common Law based criminal jurisprudence . . . ] that the defendant in a court trial has indeed committed a crime. We also need to distinguish between subjective and objective certainty: for example, a juror at a trial may be subjectively certain of the defendant’s guilt, while at the same time realizing that objectively speaking, the defendant’s guilt remains uncertain, as there are no objective grounds on which she can demonstrate his guilt to the other jurors, beyond reasonable doubt . . . .

The six levels of objective certainty I distinguish are: logical certainty (which applies to truths whose denial is a contradiction in terms), self-referential certainty (which relates to truths which cannot be consistently denied), empirical certainty (which holds for truths known from sensory experience [--> I am empirically certain that heavy objects near earth's surface, if dropped, will fall with initial acceleration 9.8 N/kg, and, bearing in mind memories of red X's for sums, that error exists . . . ]), transcendental certainty (which attaches to truths whose denial would entail the collapse of a whole field of knowledge, such as science), abductive certainty (where the truth in question is established as overwhelmingly probable [--> but plainly not beyond the abstract possibility of correction . . . ] by a process of inference to the best explanation), and normative certainty (which holds for propositions established by appealing to various norms governing human rationality).)

d: Instead, a sound worldview level thinker therefore embarks on the comparative difficulties process across live options, including addressing factual adequacy, coherence, and explanatory power; where,
e: Something like the life, death and witnessed resurrection of Jesus in the context of the scriptural prophecies of Israel, if well warranted as a fact of history [and we have argued in the linked that it is] may well become one of the credible facts that has to be adequately accounted for by a credible worldview. (Of course, many objectors will hotly deny such, but that is a very different thing from overturning the testimony of the 500, the official summary testimony from c AD 35 - 38, and the record of that c AD 55.)
f: In that context, we may further effectively argue that the observed cosmos is credibly contingent [cf the Big Bang theory], as well as its constituents, which warrants the conclusion that it requires a cause.
g: At the root of that chain of cause (as already mentioned) is a candidate necessary being of some type, one with sufficient power and capability to cause and sustain a cosmos that sits at a fine-tuned operating point that facilitates Carbon-chemistry, cell based life, even through multiverse suggestions.
[This raises the sub-cosmos "bread factory" issue . . . what sort of super-cosmic "bread factory" is needed to bake up a rich variety of sub-cosmi instead of the equivalent of a doughy half baked mess of ill-blended ingredients, or a blackened hockey puck of burned ingredients? Such a cosmos-bakery will be at least as much a finely tuned entity as our observed cosmos, so that it can produce a distribution of universes that will have in it at least one such as ours. The multiverse proposal does not dispose of the fine-tuning issue. What it does do, is to imply that as other universes are possible of being, ours is contingent.]
h: Moreover, such a candidate necessary being (as already discussed) is either possible or impossible, but plainly it is not impossible: there is no self-contradiction in core characteristics, and there is no external enabling factor that can block its emergence or switch it off from existing.  Where too, it is pivotal to recognise that this world obviously includes us, such that:
Mindedness is morally guided through
the witness of conscience, testifying to
our duty to truth, right reason, fairness,
justice, prudence, wisdom, etc.
  • we find it naturally evident that we are responsibly and rationally significantly free, so that our minds are morally governed by duties to truth, sound and prudent reasoning, fairness and more. 
  • We sense those duties through the witness of  that inner compass which we term, conscience; which tells us that we are morally governed under a law of our nature. 
  • That instantly points to a naturally evident purpose -- and, law -- of mind; to seek, discover, learn and credibly warrant then live by the truth and the right. Where also, 
  • if such a framework of a naturally evident moral law attested to by conscience and governing our minds is discarded or viewed as delusional, it reduces mind to little more than a power of ruthless manipulation to one's advantage, leading to amoral, nihilistic chaos. 
  • Which, will be self-referential, so that unless mind is actually governed by such duties as our consciences point to, the whole world of reasoned and credible discussion collapses in a self-defeating chaos  
  • (Bear in mind also, that to lie is to speak with disregard to truth, in hope that one might profit from what was said or suggested being taken as true. Notice, too, that those who would so persuade us are inescapably appealing to our known, acknowledged duties to truth, right reason, fairness, prudence, etc. In short, lying and manipulation rooted in disregard for the moral government and naturally evident purpose of mind are manifestly parasitical on that moral government and evident purpose.  Which is a strong sign that they are evils. Cretans may indeed be liars, but if lying became the norm community would collapse -- lying only works if truthfulness is the norm.) 
So then, arguably, the full force of necessity acts: there is such a necessary being with the relevant attributes to account for a cosmos and for life including ourselves as minded, conscious, en-conscienced creatures.
i: The specific nature of that necessary being is further implied by the evident design of life and cosmos (as already outlined and/or linked), as such a being must have the attributes necessary to account for such design: extra-cosmic, intelligent, very powerful, purposeful, acting as creator. These are of course features of the being we describe as God.Where also, in the same discussion Dr Torley gives a handy, well boiled down philosophical summary of what God would be:
 [A Philosophical Definition of God:] By God I mean Someone, not some thing, or some state or some process. More specifically, I mean Someone (beyond space and time) Whose nature it is to know and love in a perfect and unlimited way, Whose mode of acting is simply to know, love and choose (without anything more basic underlying these acts), Who is the Creator and Conserver of the natural world, and Who is therefore capable of making anything He wishes to, provided that it’s consistent with His nature as a perfectly intelligent and loving being, and with His other choices . . . . Since God is self-explanatory, as the Ultimate Cause, He cannot possess any ad hoc features, like being a trickster. Nor can God be totally evil, since evil is a privation [--> i.e. evil has no independent existence, it is the frustration, diversion, perversion or privation of the good out of its proper end, function, role or potential], and God is an infinite and unbounded Being. Hence we are forced to suppose that God is good. As to whether God is loving in a personal sense: each and every person is an end-in-itself, and for God to treat a person in an impersonal fashion would reflect a deficiency on His part; and since we know God is free from deficiencies, it follows that He must be personal.
j: Going further, as morally bound creatures — something atheists inadvertently acknowledge when they assume the repugnance of evil in mistakenly trying to argue from evil to atheism — a moral universe implies that the ground of its being is an IS that has in it inherent goodness sufficient to ground OUGHT. In short, once moral government is real, it goes down to the roots of reality. If you doubt this status, consider the assertion: "it is wrong/we ought not to torture innocent babies for pleasure" -- for, those who try to deny the force of this ought only manage to show themselves to be repulsively morally monstrous. And, as C S Lewis was fond of highlighting, when we quarrel, we constantly unconsciously testify to the consensus of mankind that we are indeed under objective moral government by appealing to what ought to have been, and arguing back and forth on the premise that oughtness is real. Which, invites the inference that the best explanation for that is that we are creatures of a moral Lawgiver. That is, God is moral and indeed, good. Norm Geisler has a useful discussion of the major alternatives on this --
1: Pantheists affirm God and deny Evil, ending up in denying a major and painful aspect of reality;
 2: Atheists affirm evil and deny God, ending up in a need to ground the basis for morality;

3: Theists affirm both God and evil, and need to find how the two can simultaneously be true ( usually addressed through the principle that the power to love implies the reality of choice and the possibility of evil, so the issue is the balance of good and evil in the world):
k: In rebuttal, the Euthyphro dilemma is often suggested, namely that  there is an apparent dilemma, is good independent of God or is it an arbitrary announcement of God? If the former, God is not sovereign and is no ground for goodness, if the latter, good/evil is just cosmic whim and dictatorship.
l: In simple reply, the dilemma is misdirected (cf. also here and here for more); as it was originally conceived to address pagan gods who were in effect super-men, not the ground of being. At the heart of the Judaeo-Christian worldview is the understanding that God is Creator and of inherently good character, which is morally and logically coherent. So, the cosmos reflects that goodness, and coherence; which is in key parts intelligible to us.See, video. Clipping and annotating:
m: Evil will then reveal its moral unsoundness by its incoherence and chaotic, destructive impact, thence, the test -- and principle -- of sustainability (cf also here). Hence, too, the force of Kant's Categorical Imperative: evil acts cannot become the norm without chaos, and they -- equivalently -- end up using others of equal worth as though they were mere means to one's end, disrespecting them as ends in themselves. 
n: This is closely related to the classic Golden Rule -- love and treat your neighbour as you would legitimately want to be treated, under God (who made us equally in his image) -- that is at the heart of  Judaeo-Christian ethics and its ethos of heart-softening, repentance, reformation and transformation of lives, families, institutions and communities.

o: At this point, it is worth adding some excerpted remarks originally given in reply to a challenge to define "goodness," not only for their direct value, but because this gives us a picture of how warrant, knowledge and definition fit into the foundation of worldviews. First, let's use AmHDict as a quick reference, on the span of senses of goodness as we recognise from experience and reflection, including among others:

1. Being positive or desirable in nature; not bad or poor: a good experience; good news from the hospital.
2.a. Having the qualities that are desirable or distinguishing in a particular thing: a good exterior paint; a good joke.
b. Serving the desired purpose or end; suitable: Is this a good dress for the party?
3.a. Not spoiled or ruined: The milk is still good.
b. In excellent condition; sound: a good tooth.
4.a. Superior to the average; satisfactory: a good student.
b. Used formerly to refer to the US Government grade of meat higher than standard and lower than choice.
5.a. Of high quality: good books.
b. Discriminating: good taste.
6.a. Of moral excellence; upright: a good person.
b. Benevolent; kind: a good soul; a good heart.
c. Loyal; staunch: a good Republican.
d. Well-behaved; obedient: a good child.
e. Socially correct; proper: good manners.
7. Worthy of respect; honorable: ruined the family's good name.
8. Attractive; handsome: good looks. ETC . . . 
Where, we may then "go worldview":
 . . . even — for argument — taking the term goodness as an  undefined analytical primitive, [i.e. a first "glorified common sense" notion like points or lines in Euclid's framework for Geometry] to be fleshed out on intuitive insights (rooted in our experience of the world giving us key cases and a basis for assessing family resemblance thus allowing identification and validation of a concept . . . ) applied to analysis, we will observe that all fields have such analytical primitives.
Starting with mathematics.
Otherwise, we face infinite regress; which is absurd.
So, any “definitionitis”-based objection is already selectively hyperskeptical . . . . To avert question-begging, we make sure that on comparative difficulties, we have a starting point that is factually adequate, coherent and explanatorily elegant (neither ad hoc nor simplistic).
Now, that is a general case, and applies to the basic structure of worldviews . . . starting with the turtles all the way down problem [highlighted above] . . . .
It is worth pausing to note on rational intuition, our ability to recognise key concepts, patterns and cases, often beyond our ability to express analytically. For instance, field biologists are often able to reliably identify the base taxon of an observed creature, without any explicit analysis, because of their experience based expertise. Similarly, we can often recognise members of a family quite accurately, beyond our power to explain. Down that road lies the more fundamental path to “definition,” ostensive definition ["a definition that points out or exhibits instances of the term defined"]. Definitions on genus-difference [e.g. a bicycle is a certain specific type of two-wheeled vehicle powered by pedals and/or a motor], [or by precise and complete] statements of necessary and sufficient conditions [to include or exclude a suggested case] , or operational sequences [of actions, e.g. a metre is the distance light travels in a certain time, about 3 nano seconds], are dependent on this prior identification and rational intuition about key cases of a common theme and family resemblance that is close enough to be in, or failed resemblance that allows exclusion.
This principle and practice of identification based on experience, family resemblance and rational intuition, is a reality of our life as knowing agents, and it traces to the core rational and cognitive capacities we have as a basic endowment. It is also tied closely to the issue explored by Plantinga in recent years, on the warrant for and reliability of knowledge based on proper function of our endowed cognitive and related capacities and senses functioning in an appropriate environment.
Coming back to the concept of goodness, in fact, we do have a wide base of experience of goodness. We also have reasonable tests, that allow us to discern the morally sound in many cases. For instance, principles like reciprocity of valuable equals and the society-level incoherence of the morally unsound [evils can only thrive by parasiting off the fact that most of the time, most of us do not act like that, e.g. think about what would happen to the community if we routinely lied in essentially all communications . . . ) allow us to identify core principles and practices of goodness.
So, we are not at all locked up to a definitionitis trap.
Going beyond, we have in hand a reasonable concept of goodness with many good comparison cases, so it is plainly not "nonsense" or "meaningless" or "incoherent" to project on that basis, to the idea that the creator of a cosmos fine tuned for life, who would be responsible for the emergence of intelligent life -- and may even be conceived of as having made such life "in his image," is good to the nth degree.
We may carry out a similar analysis of what it means to be "rational" or "reasonable" etc.
So, in reasoning about our idea of God, we may indeed reasonably and in light of abundant and even compelling empirical evidence conceive of and even know of an inherently and ultimately good, wise and reasonable Creator God who is the necessary and transcendent being responsible for the cosmos we observe and for us in it. So, we have met the coherence, explanatory elegance and factual adequacy criteria at worldview foundational level.
In that context, we may freely examine and draw a reasonable conclusion on the claim that such a good, wise, reasonable Creator God would be a worldview foundational IS who can ground OUGHT.
Such a good God, would per essential character, make a world in conformity with his being and character, i.e. core morality would be an in-built feature of the world, and in particular of creatures capable of moral action.
For instance, a world in which love is possible is of a different order of goodness than one in which all is based on pre-programmed [robot-like machines], of mechanical necessity and/or chance in the physical world, and executed programs in the animated world of life. That implicates the power of real choice, i.e freedom. Which is another good of that higher order.
But, with such, comes responsibility and come as well duties of care to value, choose and act aright towards the other.

We have arrived at a basis for morality, on an objective warrant. It also pivots -- unsurprisingly -- on the power and freedom to value, choose and love.
As a bonus, it is exactly these principles that are the pivot of the now classic Plantinga free will defense against the deductive and inductive forms of the problem of evil. (Cf here on [below] for a 101.) We also have an answer, by extension, to the problem of good that especially confronts the materialist.
In Dembski's words on Boethius:
In his Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius states the following paradox: “If God exists, whence evil? But whence good, if God does not exist?” . . .
p: This, too, is why, in grounding the principles of liberty and just government, Locke, in Ch II Section 5 of his historically pivotal Second Treatise on Civil Government, cited "the judicious [Anglican Theologian Richard] Hooker" in his 1594+ Ecclesiastical Polity:
. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.
(This brings out the basis for the objectivity of sound moral principles. For, the God of Judaeo-Christian theism is the ground of reality, so it is a classic theistic answer to the proposed dilemma that the inherently good Creator of the cosmos made a world that -- in accordance with his unchangeably good character -- not only is replete with reliable, compelling signs pointing to his eternal power and Deity as the root of our being, but also builds in a real, reasonable, intelligible moral principle into that world.)

q: That intelligible moral principle is then implanted inextricably in our very nature as human beings as the basis of the light of conscience, so that for instance by our nature as creatures equally made in God's image with ability to know, reason and choose, we have a known duty of mutual respect. Which is Hooker's point, and via Locke, a major component of the foundation of modern liberty and democracy through just, legitimate, limited and accountable government.  Indeed, this is the precise force of Cicero's C1 BC remarks on the core nature of the law of our nature, AKA natural law:
—Marcus [in de Legibus, introductory remarks,. C1 BC]: . . . the subject of our present discussion . . . comprehends the universal principles of equity and law. In such a discussion therefore on the great moral law of nature, the practice of the civil law can occupy but an insignificant and subordinate station. For according to our idea, we shall have to explain the true nature of moral justice, which is congenial and correspondent [36]with the true nature of man. We shall have to examine those principles of legislation by which all political states should be governed. And last of all, shall we have to speak of those laws and customs which are framed for the use and convenience of particular peoples, which regulate the civic and municipal affairs of the citizens, and which are known by the title of civil laws.
Quintus. —You take a noble view of the subject, my brother, and go to the fountain–head of moral truth, in order to throw light on the whole science of jurisprudence: while those who confine their legal studies to the civil law too often grow less familiar with the arts of justice than with those of litigation.
Marcus. —Your observation, my Quintus, is not quite correct. It is not so much the science of law that produces litigation, as the ignorance of it, (potius ignoratio juris litigiosa est quam scientia) . . . . With respect to the true principle of justice, many learned men have maintained that it springs from Law. I hardly know if their opinion be not correct, at least, according to their own definition; for “Law (say they) is the highest reason, implanted in nature, which prescribes those things which ought to be done, and forbids the contrary.”
This, they think, is apparent from the converse of the proposition; because this same reason, when it [37]is confirmed and established in men’s minds, is the law of all their actions. They therefore conceive that the voice of conscience is a law, that moral prudence is a law, whose operation is to urge us to good actions, and restrain us from evil ones. They think, too, that the Greek name for law (NOMOS), which is derived from NEMO, to distribute, implies the very nature of the thing, that is, to give every man his due. [--> this implies a definition of justice as the due balance of rights, freedoms and responsibilities]
For my part, I imagine that the moral essence of law is better expressed by its Latin name, (lex), which conveys the idea of selection or discrimination. According to the Greeks, therefore, the name of law implies an equitable distribution of goods: according to the Romans, an equitable discrimination between good and evil. The true definition of law should, however, include both these characteristics. And this being granted as an almost self–evident proposition, the origin of justice is to be sought in the divine law of eternal and immutable morality. This indeed is the true energy of nature, the very soul and essence of wisdom, the test of virtue and vice
  To this, we may add some earlier remarks:

 On the Republic, Bk 3: {22.} [33] L   . . . True law [--> at core] is right reason in agreement with nature, it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions. And it does not lay its commands or prohibitions upon good men in vain, though neither have any effect on the wicked. It is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to attempt to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is, God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge. 

[–> where, the concept of God here clearly involves the inherently good and utterly wise so that the principles of first law are intelligible and rational, not arbitrary; notice, the first duties of reason pervade reasoned argument inescapably, once we incline ourselves to look: duties to truth, to right reason, to prudence, to sound conscience, to neighbour, so too to fairness and justice (= due balance of rights, freedoms and duties), etc ]  

Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature, and by reason of this very fact he will suffer the worst penalties, even if he escapes what is commonly considered punishment [–> coeval with rational, ensouled creaturehood] . . . . – Marcus Tullius Cicero, c. 55-54 BC

 We may freely follow, extend and summarise this in light of developments over the past two thousand years, once we recognise that we see here some self-evident first truths. For it bears repeating -- a nail seldom goes home with one blow of the hammer --  to again recognise that:

We can readily identify at least seven inescapable first duties of reason. Inescapable, as they are so antecedent to reasoning that even the objector implicitly appeals to them; i.e. they are self-evident.

  • to truth, 
  • to right reason,
  • to prudence, 
  • to sound conscience, 
  • to neighbour, so also 
  • to fairness and 
  • justice 
  • etc.

Such built in [--> thus, universal] law is not invented by parliaments or courts, nor can these principles and duties be abolished by such.  Indeed, it is on this framework that we can set out to soundly understand and duly balance rights, freedoms and duties; which is justice.

The legitimate main task of government, then, is to uphold and defend the civil peace of justice through sound community order reflecting the built in, intelligible law of our nature. Where, as my right implies your duty a true right is a binding moral claim to be respected in life, liberty, honestly aquired property, innocent reputation etc. To so justly claim a right, one must therefore demonstrably be in the right.

Thus, too, we may compose sound civil law informed by that built-in law of our responsibly, rationally free morally governed nature. Then,  from such, we may identify what is unsound or false thus to be reformed or replaced even though enacted under the colour and solemn ceremonies of law.
r: By contrast, when Cornell University history of Biology professor and naturalism
[= evolutionary materialistic scientism, or as AmHD puts it "The system of thought holding that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws"]
. . . advocate William Provine spoke at the 1998 University of Tennessee Darwin Day celebrations, he went on record:
Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . . The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .
 s: Similarly, in his 1995 Scientific American article, "God's Utility Function," Richard Dawkins, Simonyi professor for the public understanding of science, of Oxford University, went on record:
Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This lesson is one of the hardest for humans to learn. We cannot accept that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous: indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.
We humans have purpose on the brain. We find it difficult to look at anything without wondering what it is “for,” what the motive for it or the purpose behind it might be. The desire to see purpose everywhere is natural in an animal that lives surrounded by machines, works of art, tools and other designed artifacts – an animal whose waking thoughts are dominated by its own goals and aims . . . . In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference . . . . DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.
t: In short, evolutionary materialism is inherently, inescapably amoral, having in it no foundational IS that can bear the weight of the sort of ought that makes us look at a child victim of torture and say, this ought not to have happened. Those who hold to such views, see morality as a matter of feelings and values inculcated by genes, culture, family and personal experience, and often find nothing wrong with playing on our moral sensibilities to get us to feel as they want, to promote the ideas and agendas they want.

u: Thus, on a radically relativist, amoral evolutionary materialist worldview, in the end, might and manipulation make 'right.'  And, as the playthings that dance to the tunes played by our genes, experiences and cultures, we of course have no genuine freedom of choice or thought. Man as a responsible, freely reasoning creature, on this view, is dead.
v: So, if such a one and his or her ilk hold power, why not manipulate popular or even educated feelings and views to the desired end? Which sort of amoral manipulativeness and factionism is exactly what Plato warned against in his The Laws, Bk X, 2350 years ago, c. 360 BC:
[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [ --> i.e. the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, [ --> so, evolutionary materialism is an ancient philosophy and adherents would explain the cosmos as being matter shaped by chance and necessity, rejecting any and all signs pointing to design]  and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only . . . . 

[[T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [ --> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke's views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic "every man does what is right in his own eyes" chaos leading to tyranny.)] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [ -->  Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [ --> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here],  these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others , and not in legal subjection to them [ --> such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny; here, too, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades] . . .
w: No wonder, too, that Paul warned us in no uncertain terms, as we have noted:
Eph 4: 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!- 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,  which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. [ESV]
x: To cap off, starting with the 500+ eyewitnesses of C1, and continuing down to today, millions have personally come to meet, know and have their lives transformed by the Just, Holy, Good, Loving and Living God in the face of the risen Christ. (And if one is offended by Christian particularism, I suggest a look here as a start.)
There is, of course, a vast and "rich" skeptical literature in critique or even scorn of such a cumulative theistic case that leads to the Judaeo-Christian worldview.

But, what is needed  is to show -- not just assume, assert or angrily shout --  that that "rich" literature succeeds. 
Not, in showing what was never at issue — that it is possible to reject such arguments by challenging premises and dismissing facts — but that on comparative difficulties across the case as a whole, atheism or the like is a superior conclusion, including in the implications of alternative premises to the rejected ones.

For just one instance (and as was just hinted at), 
Grand delusion challenge, God-experience through Christ form: if the human mind is so delusional that the millions across time who claim to have met and been transformed by God in the face of Christ are deluded, then on what alternative grounds can you trust your mind not to be at least as deluded when it arrives at atheistical, evolutionary materialistic conclusions?

In any case, enough has now been examined to show beyond reasonable doubt that ethical, generic theism is a reasonable and credible worldview, whether or not one is inclined to accept it. 

Therefore, on fair comment we may freely say: the sort of contemptuously dismissive hostility that is ever so common among, say, the so-called New Atheists and their fellow travellers -- and as is all too aptly summarised in Dawkins' notoriously barbed and unfortunate "ignorant, stupid, insane . . . or wicked" remark -- reveals far more about those who imagine or outright say such, than about the actual state of the case on its merits.

We can therefore also see why the Christian faith tradition is not at all backward or  irrational to begin from the evident reality of God, and to then call for response to him on these terms:

Rom 1:19 . . . what can be known about God is plain to [people], because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse . . .

John 3:19 . . .  this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Heb 11: 1 Now faith [cf. Rom 4:4 - 5 &10:14 - 17: i.e. trusting  God based on his evident reality, character and word . . . ] is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible . . . .  6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
However, we have not yet addressed what is, by general consent, the strongest cluster of objections to such theism; namely, the problem(s) of evil.

But also, there is an immediate balancing factor: to object that evil is inconsistent with the existence of God has the implication that we are bound by the force of ought. That is, there is a moral law. How can such a binding law be grounded without an inherently good, utterly wise law-giver? And, if not, what IS is there at reality root, that can bear the weight of OUGHT? 

(Where also, a blind, non-purposeful cosmos of matter, energy, space and time interacting under chance circumstances and mechanical necessity -- the root-stuff of today's popular evolutionary materialism, plainly cannot sustain that load. Of course, we must here see off a strawman fallacy: we are not here asserting that materialistic atheists etc. can never act or think morally, but rather we are highlighting the unbridgeable gap between such moral principles as they may accept as binding -- as opposed to, merely expedient [cf. here Alcibiades] -- and the foundations of their worldview, as Plato also did, ever so long ago in The Laws, Bk X, 360 BC. Remember, as well, the principle that we are bound by the compelling force of ought, includes the idea that we ought to refrain from, say, torturing newborn infants to death. And many other similarly blatant cases. The self evident truth of such a moral claim [and, alas, on some sad cases, the horrible gap between what is and what ought to be . . . ] can easily be seen by the patently absurd consequences of trying to deny such. Ought is credibly real, and undeniable on pain of blatant absurdity in the face of such notorious cases.)

While that restores matters to an even keel, it does not directly answer the problem of evil. So, we now must face the main direct argument against the existence of God, the problem of evil.

Dealing with the issue of good and evil

Difficult as the intellectual forms of the problem of evil are, it is far easier to answer them than to deal with the horrific impact of pain and evil in our existence. 

So, before going on to look at that form, let us watch Ravi Zacharias respond to this problem, with that horrific personal violation known as rape as the chief example:

(Of course, while such an answer is helpful, what is truly needed is healing of the heart and mind on the strength of what our Wounded Healer has done through the cross. One who faces such a life challenge -- especially if s/he begins to feel sucked down by a swirling vortex of despair or begins to wish he or she were dead or had never been born [serious, potentially clinical warning signs . . . ] -- should therefore seek sound, empathetic pastoral counselling and/or psychological care.)

It is also worth the while to pause and watch a lecture by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason:

Leading design theorist and philosopher-theologian William Dembski helps us put the intellectual forms of the problem of evil in context, by citing the sixth century Christian philosopher, Boethius:
In his Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius states the following paradox: “If God exists, whence evil? But whence good, if God does not exist?” Boethius contrasts the problem that evil poses for  theism with the problem that good poses for atheism. The problem of good does not receive nearly as much attention as the problem evil, but it is the more basic problem. That’s because evil always presupposes a good that has been subverted. All our words for evil make this plain: the New Testament word for sin (Greek hamartia) presupposes a target that’s been missed; deviation presupposes a way (Latin via) from which we’ve departed; injustice presupposes justice; etc. So let’s ask, who’s got the worse problem, the theist or the atheist? Start with the theist. God is the source of all being and purpose. Given God’s existence, what sense does it make to deny God’s goodness? None . . . . The problem of evil still confronts theists, though not as a logical or philosophical problem, but instead as a psychological and existential one [as was addressed above] . . . . 
The problem of good as it faces the atheist is this: nature, which is nuts-and-bolts reality for the atheist, has no values and thus can offer no grounding for good and evil. As nineteenth century freethinker Robert Green Ingersoll used to say, “In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments. There are consequences.” More recently, Richard Dawkins made the same point: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” ["Prepared Remarks for the Dembski-Hitchens Debate," Uncommon Descent Blog, Nov 22, 2010]
In short, when we come to core worldview problems, we should address the comparative difficulties of the main alternatives, and make our choice on which difficulties it is better to live with. 

Plantinga's free-will defense, in a skeletal form, allows us to effectively address the problem. For, it is claimed that the following set of theistic beliefs embed an unresolvable contradiction:

1.      God exists
2.      God is omnipotent – all powerful
3.      God is omniscient – all-knowing
4.      God is omni-benevolent – all-good
5.      God created the world
6.      The world contains evil
To do so, there is an implicit claim that, (2a) if he exists, God is omnipotent and so capable of -- but obviously does not eliminate -- evil. So, at least one of 2 – 5 should be surrendered. But all of these claims are central to the notion of God, so it is held that the problem is actually 1. 

Therefore, NOT-1: God does not exist.

However, it has been pointed out by Plantinga and others that:
  1. 2a is not consistent with what theists actually believe: if the elimination of some evil would lead to a worse evil, or prevent the emergence of a greater good, then God might have a good reason to permit some evil in the cosmos.
  2. Specifically, what if “many evils result from human free will or from the fact that our universe operates under natural laws or from the fact that humans exist in a setting that fosters soul-making . . . [and that such a world] contains more good than a world that does not” ?
  3. In this case, Theists propose that 2a should be revised: 2b: “A good, omnipotent God will eliminate evil as far as he can without either losing a greater good or bringing about a greater evil.”  But, once this is done, the alleged contradiction collapses.
  4. Further, Alvin Plantinga – through his free will defense -- was able to show that the theistic set is actually consistent. He did this by augmenting the set with a further proposition that is logically possible (as opposed to seeming plausible to one who may be committed to another worldview) and which makes the consistency clear. That proposition, skeletally, is 5a: “God created a world (potentially) containing evil; and has a good reason for doing so.” Propositions 1, 2b, 3, 4, and 5a are plainly consistent, and entail 6.
  5. The essence of that defense is:
    “A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures . . . God can create free creatures, but he can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For . . . then they aren’t significantly free after all . . . He could only have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good.” [NB: This assumes that moral good reflects the power of choice: if we are merely robots carrying out programs, then we cannot actually love, be truthful, etc.] [From: Clark, Kelley James. Return to Reason. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), pp. 69 – 70, citing Plantinga, God, Freedom and Evil, (Eerdmans, 1974), p. 30.]
  6. Nor is the possible world known as heaven a good counter-example. For, heaven would exist as a world in which the results of choices made to live by the truth in love across a lifetime have culminated in their eternal reward. This we may see from an argument made by the apostle Paul:
    Rom 2:6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 78 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. [NIV]
  7. Anticipating the onward response that in at least some possible worlds, there are free creatures, all of whom freely do what is right, Plantinga asserts a further possibility: trans-world depravity. That is, in all worlds God could create in which a certain person, say Gordon, exists; then that person would have freely gone wrong at least once. And, what if it is further possible that this holds for every class of created, morally capable being? (Then, there would be no possible worlds in which moral good is possible but in which moral  evil would not in fact occur. So the benefit of moral good would entail that the world would contain transworld depraved creatures.)
  8. Moreover, Plantinga proposes that there is a possible state of affairs in which God and natural evil can exist. For instance, if all natural evils are the result of the actions of significantly free creatures such as Satan and his minions, then since it is logically possible that God could not have created a world with a greater balance of good over evil if it did not contain such creatures, God and natural evil are compatible.
  9. At this point, albeit grudgingly, leading atheologians (Such as Mackie and Williams) concede that the deductive form of the problem of evil stands overturned. Thus, a new question is put on the table.
  10. It is: But what if the world seems to contain too much evil, and evil that is apparently pointless, i.e. gratuitous? First, the greater good “absorbs” at least some of the evils. To this, the Christian Theist further responds that there are goods in the world that are left out of the account so far; especially, that the fall of mankind led to the greatest good of all: that God loved the world and gave his Son, setting in motion the programme of redemption as a supreme good that absorbs all evils. That is, it is rational for a Christian to believe there are no un-absorbed evils, even though the a-theologian may beg to differ with the Christian’s beliefs.
  11. However, it should be noted that there is an existential or pastoral form of the problem of evil (as we saw above): where the overwhelming force of evil and pain brings us to doubt God. To that, no mere rational argument will suffice; for it is a life-challenge we face, as did Job. And, as a perusal of Job 23:1 – 7, 38:1 – 7, 40:1 – 8, 42:1 – 6, God may be more interested in exposing our underlying motives and calling for willingness to trust him even where we cannot trace him, than in satisfying our queries and rebutting our pained accusations. That is, it is at least possible that God is primarily in the business of soul-making.         
Where then does the problem of evil stand today? 

On balance, it is rational to believe that God exists, but obviously there are many deep, even painful questions to which we have no answers. And, those who choose to believe in God will have a radically different evaluation of evil than those who reject him. 

We may now carry this forward, to briefly address the vexed problem of the fairly common attempt to reduce morality to subjective or otherwise relative perceptions imposed by persuasion or force. For this, it is perhaps best to start with a very concrete case, one which is unfortunately not just theoretical:
[MY1:] ASSERTION . . . MORAL YARDSTICK 1: it is self-evidently wrong, bad and evil to kidnap, torture, sexually violate and murder a young child. Likewise, by corollary: if we come across such a case in progress, it is our duty to try to intervene to save the child from such a monster.
Almost all people will agree that such a case is horrible, and to be deplored. So also, they will agree that a duty of rescue obtains, or at least succor for someone left half dead. Thus, we see the significance of the Good Samaritan as a paradigm of neighbourliness across racial, religious, political and other dividing-lines or even outright enmity:
Luke 10:25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

  28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  

30 Jesus replied, 
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’  
 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  

37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” [ESV]
And, normally responsive people will at least grudgingly respect the following summary of such core, conscience attested morality from the pen of Paul:
Rom 2:14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them . . . . 

Rom 13:Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong [NIV, "harm"] to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. [ESV]
Where, John Locke, in grounding modern liberty and what would become democratic self-government of a free people premised on upholding the civil peace of justice, in Ch 2 Sec. 5 of his second treatise on civil Government [c. 1690] cites "the judicious [Anglican canon, Richard] Hooker" from his classic Ecclesiastical Polity of 1594 on,  as he explains how the principles of neighbour-love are inscribed in our hearts, becoming evident to the eye of common good sense and reasonableness:

. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8 and alluding to Justinian's synthesis of Roman Law in Corpus Juris Civilis that also brings these same thoughts to bear:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.]

We may elaborate on Paul, Locke, Hooker and Aristotle, laying out several manifestly evident and historically widely acknowledged core moral principles; for which the attempted denial is instantly and patently absurd for most people -- that is, they are arguably self-evident (thus, warranted and objective) moral truths; not just optional opinions. 

So also, it is not only possible to 
(a) be in demonstrable moral error, but also 

(b) there is hope that such moral errors can be corrected by appealing to manifestly sound core principles of the natural, built-in moral law. Thus,

(c) we can now see that a core of law is built into moral government of our responsible, rational freedom (through our known, inescapable duties to truth, right reason, prudence [including, warrant], sound conscience, neighbourliness [thus, the golden rule], fairness & justice, etc). On these, 

(d) we may frame just civil law as comporting with that built-in law of our morally governed nature, towards upholding and defending the civil peace of justice through sound government. And, as Christians are mandated:

            (e) we are therefore duly called to prayer: 

1 Tim 2: First of all, then, I urge that petitions (specific requests), prayers, intercessions (prayers for others) and thanksgivings be offered on behalf of all people, for [a]kings and all who are in [positions of] high authority, so that we may live a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

This [kind of praying] is good and acceptable and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,
who [b]wishes all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge and recognition of the [divine] truth.

For there is [only] one God, and [only] one Mediator between God and mankind, the Man Christ Jesus,
who gave Himself as a ransom [a substitutionary sacrifice to atone] for all, the testimony given at the right and proper time. [AMP]

For instance, with slight adaptaion:
1] The first self evident moral truth is that we are inescapably under the government of ought, leading to first duties of responsible reason.
(This is manifest in even an objector's implication in the questions, challenges and arguments that s/he would advance, that we are in the wrong and there is something to be avoided about that. That is, even the objector inadvertently implies that we OUGHT to do, think, aim for and say the right. Not even the hyperskeptical objector can escape this truth. Patent absurdity on attempted denial. Expanding slightly, as this has to be hammered home: our rational, responsible intelligent behaviour is inescapably under the moral government of known duties to truth, to right reason, to prudence [so to warrant], to sound conscience, to neighbourliness [thus, the Golden Rule], to fairness and justice, etc. Thus, we find morally rooted law built into our morally governed nature, even for our intellectual life. Thus, too, the civil law extends what is already built in, to our social circumstances, turning on issues of prudence, justice and mutual duties; if it is to be legitimate. Notice, this is itself a theory on what law is or at least should be. And yes, all of this is fraught with implications for the roots of reality.)
Conscience, when sound, accurately points to duty;
accordingly to violate it damages one's soul, and
therefore there is a right to follow sound conscience that
is integral to the person and to the civil peace
of justice. To be coerced in violation of conscience, is
a violation of the person; e.g. rape. But this is as opposed to the
need to correct warped, unsound or benumbed souls.
This means, conscience must align with morally tinged truth,
and must seek wisdom, prudence, right reason and humility to
recognise differences, doubts, errors, risks and uncertainties

2] Second self evident truth, we discern that some things are right and others are wrong by a compass-sense we term conscience which guides our thought.
(Again, objectors depend on a sense of guilt/ urgency to be right not wrong on our part to give their points persuasive force. See what would be undermined should conscience be deadened or dismissed universally? Sawing off the branch on which we all must sit. Where, this is no mere emotive appeal to feared consequences, it is an argument by exposing self-referential incoherence.)
Only if conscience is credibly sound as a compass,
can we trust it for moral navigation. So, as first
duties of reason are inescapable, so inescapably true as
first principles of reason, any worldview or argument
that entails reducing conscience to delusion is absurd

3] Third, were this sense of conscience and linked sense that we can make responsibly free, rational decisions to be a delusion, we would at once descend into a status of grand delusion in which there is no good ground for confidence in our self-understanding.
(That is, we look at an infinite regress of Plato’s cave worlds: once such a principle of grand global delusion is injected, there is no firewall so the perception of level one delusion is subject to the same issue, and this level two perception too, ad infinitum; landing in patent absurdity. That is, we here expose further self-referential incoherence.)
Homer Simpson here illustrates the challenge and pain
of temptation, indecision and need for discernment

4] Fourth, we are objectively under obligation of OUGHT. That is, despite any particular person’s (or group’s or august council’s or majority’s) wishes or claims to the contrary, such obligation credibly holds to moral certainty, independent of particular biases, errors, delusions or the like of individuals or groups. That is, it would be irresponsible, foolish and unwise for us to act and try to live otherwise.
5] Fifth, this cumulative framework of moral government under OUGHT is the basis for the manifest core principles of the natural moral law under which we find ourselves obligated to the right the good, the true etc. Where also, patently, we struggle to live up to what we acknowledge or imply we ought to do.
6] Sixth, this means we live in a world in which being under core, generally understood principles of natural moral law is coherent and factually adequate, thus calling for a world-understanding in which OUGHT is properly grounded at root level.
(Thus worldviews that can soundly meet this test are the only truly viable ones. If a worldview does not have in it a world-root level IS that can simultaneously ground OUGHT -- so that IS and OUGHT are inextricably fused at that level, it fails decisively.*)
7] Seventh, in light of the above, even the weakest and most voiceless of us thus has a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of fulfillment of one’s sense of what s/he ought to be (“happiness”). This includes the young child, the unborn and more.
(We see here the concept that rights are binding moral expectations of others to provide respect in regards to us because of our inherent status as human beings, members of the community of valuable neighbours. Where also who is my neighbour was forever answered by the parable of the Good Samaritan. Likewise, there can be no right to demand of or compel my neighbour that s/he upholds me and enables me in the wrong — including under false colour of law through lawfare; usurping the sword of justice to impose a ruthless policy agenda in fundamental breach of that civil peace which must ever pivot on manifest justice. To justly claim a right, one must first manifestly be in the right.)
8] Eighth, like unto the seventh, such may only be circumscribed or limited for good cause. Such as, reciprocal obligation to cherish and not harm one's neighbour of equal, equally valuable nature in community and in the wider world of the common brotherhood of humanity.(This helps us frame just law.)
9] Ninth, this is the context in which it becomes self evidently wrong, wicked and evil to kidnap, sexually torture and murder a young child or the like as concrete cases in point that show that might and/or manipulation do not make ‘right,’ ‘truth,’ ‘worth,’ ‘justice,’ ‘fairness,’ ‘law’ etc. That is, anything that expresses or implies the nihilist’s credo is morally absurd.
10] Tenth, this entails that in civil society with government, justice is a principal task of legitimate government. In short, nihilistic will to power untempered by the primacy of justice is its own refutation in any type of state. Where, justice is the due balance of rights, freedoms and responsibilities. (In Aristotle's terms as cited by Hooker: "because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like .") Thus also,
11] Eleventh, that government is and ought to be subject to audit, reformation and if necessary replacement should it fail sufficiently badly and incorrigibly.
(NB: This is a requisite of accountability for justice, and the suggestion or implication of some views across time, that government can reasonably be unaccountable to the governed, is its own refutation, reflecting -- again -- nihilistic will to power; which is automatically absurd. This truth involves the issue that finite, fallible, morally struggling men acting as civil authorities in the face of changing times and situations as well as in the face of the tendency of power to corrupt, need to be open to remonstrance and reformation -- or if they become resistant to reasonable appeal, there must be effective means of replacement. Hence, the principle that the general election is an insitutionalised regular solemn assembly of the people for audit and reform or if needs be replacement of government gone bad. But this is by no means an endorsement of the notion that a manipulated mob bent on a march of folly has a right to do as it pleases. Where, too, the manifest integrity of electoral systems is equally an imperative. Otherwise, it matters not who votes, but who cheats and who counts, as Stalin notoriously suggested.)
12] Twelfth, the attempt to deny or dismiss such a general framework of moral governance invariably lands in shipwreck of incoherence and absurdity. As, has been seen in outline. But that does not mean that the attempt is not going to be made, so there is a mutual obligation of frank and fair correction and restraint of evil.
* F/N: After centuries of debates and assessment of alternatives per comparative difficulties, there is in fact just one serious candidate to be such a grounding IS: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of ultimate loyalty and the reasonable responsible service of doing the good in accord with our manifestly evident nature. (And instantly, such generic ethical theism answers also to the accusation oh this is “religion”; that term being used as a dirty word — no, this is philosophy. If you doubt this, simply put forth a different candidate that meets the required criteria and passes the comparative difficulties test: _________ . Likewise, an inherently good, maximally great being will not be arbitrary or deceitful etc, that is why such is fully worthy of ultimate loyalty and the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our manifestly evident nature. As a serious candidate necessary being, such would be eternal and embedded in the frame for a world to exist at all. Thus such a candidate is either impossible as a square circle is impossible due to mutual ruin of core characteristics, or else it is actual. For simple instance no world is possible without two-ness in it, a necessary basis for distinct identity inter alia.
F/N2: Likewise, as Ben Mines summarises from Leibniz, maximal goodness, wisdom and power are arguably mutually, inextricably entangled once we understand/accept that the good implies an evident proper end or purpose. That is, we here see how key attributes of God are deeply bound up in one another, each points to the others and the others point to each particular one (so, each attribute, set in context, is in this sense a "microcosm" of the whole) . . . but back to Mines:
Leibniz has given an argument to show that omniscience and moral perfection [–> also, omnipotence] are mutually inclusive: all freely willed action strives towards some goal; all goals are the pursuit of some good entertained by the agent; [ –> real or imagined?] the scope and quality of entertainable goods is dependent on knowledge; the maximisation of knowledge perfects an agent’s judgment of the good. An evil being therefore lacks perfect knowledge; and lacking perfect knowledge, is not omniscient; and lacking omniscience, cannot be omnipotent since there will be some actions it lacks the knowledge to perform. The proposition, It is possible that a maximally great but evil being exists is therefore broadly incoherent. A being cannot be both evil and maximally great.
 F/N3: This principle of built-in moral government under known law also applies directly to gospel ethics, discipleship and evangelism. For, example, it means that "sin" is not merely an oppressive invention of priestcraft designed to bring us under theocratic tyranny -- which, is the exact implication of many objections to gospel ethics today. Instead, 
Definition of sin, moral violation focus: sin is in the first instance willful moral error, defiance therefore of the inherently good and utterly wise Creator who made us, gave us responsible freedom, commanded us to live by love and truth, and gave us sound conscience as a witness. 
Therefore, too, we have real guilt against the law of our nature, the law of our creator, not just mere painful emotions to deal with. It is in this context that the gospel is good news: in his love, our creator has made a way for us to be forgiven, rescued and transformed.
Given the dismissiveness of many objectors, it is relevant to expose some underlying evolutionary materialistic thinking. We do so by highlighting Michael Ruse & E. O. Wilson in their notorious 1991 essay, “The Evolution of Ethics” as they inadvertently expose how it reduces ethics thus also mindedness to grand delusion, as self evident truth 3 above addresses:
The time has come to take seriously the fact
[–> This is a gross error at the outset, as macro-evolution is a theory (an explanation) about the unobserved past of origins and so cannot be a fact on the level of the observed roundness of the earth or the orbiting of planets around the sun etc. and as the ideology of evolutionary materialistic scientism, which undergirds the perception of “fact” is an imposed, question-begging, self-refuting necessarily false assertion, not at all properly a fact.]
. . . that we humans are modified monkeys, not the favored Creation of a Benevolent God on the Sixth Day . . . We must think again [–> why, isn’t that a disguised “OUGHT,” the very thing being trashed?] especially about our so-called ‘ethical principles.’ [–> this speculation improperly dressed up as fact directly affects ethics, with implications for the first duties of reason] The question is not whether biology—specifically, our evolution—is connected with ethics, but how
As evolutionists, we see that no justification of the traditional kind is possible. Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends. Hence the basis of ethics does not lie in God’s will … In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. It is without external grounding… Ethics is illusory inasmuch as it persuades us that it has an objective reference. This is the crux of the biological position. Once it is grasped, everything falls into place. [–> Yes, they are utterly unaware of how such undermines the credibility of reason thus their own rationality, by imposing grand delusion and undermining the moral government that drives how responsible rationality works] [Michael Ruse & E. O. Wilson, “The Evolution of Ethics,” Religion and the Natural Sciences: The Range of Engagement, , ed. J. E. Hutchingson, Orlando, Fl.:Harcourt and Brace, 1991.]
Will Hawthorne, in reply to such ideological imposition, is deservedly withering, echoing the concerns Plato raised in The Laws, Bk X, concerns that reflect lessons hard-bought with blood and tears:
Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [the ‘is’ being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)
Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.
Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.
For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this [nihilistic, absurd] consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.
Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit.
Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from [a material] ‘is’.
In like fashion,  Lewis Vaughn exposes how:
. . . Subjective relativism is the view that an action is morally right if one approves of it. A person’s approval makes the action right. This doctrine (as well as cultural relativism) is in stark contrast to moral objectivism, the view that some moral principles are valid for everyone.. Subjective relativism, though, has some troubling implications. It implies that each person is morally infallible and that individuals can never have a genuine moral disagreement.

Cultural relativism is the view that an action is morally right if one’s culture approves of it. The argument for this doctrine is based on the diversity of moral judgments among cultures: because people’s judgments about right and wrong differ from culture to culture, right and wrong must be relative to culture, and there are no objective moral principles. This argument is defective, however, because the diversity of moral views does not imply that morality is relative to cultures. In addition, the alleged diversity of basic moral standards among cultures may be only apparent, not real. Societies whose moral judgments conflict may be differing not over moral principles but over nonmoral facts.

Some think that tolerance is entailed by cultural relativism. But there is no necessary connection between tolerance and the doctrine. Indeed, the cultural relativist cannot consistently advocate tolerance while maintaining his relativist standpoint. To advocate tolerance is to advocate an objective moral value. But if tolerance is an objective moral value, then cultural relativism must be false, because it says that there are no objective moral values.

Like subjective relativism, cultural relativism has some disturbing consequences. It implies that cultures are morally infallible, that social reformers can never be morally right, that moral disagreements between individuals in the same culture amount to arguments over whether they disagree with their culture, that other cultures cannot be legitimately criticized, and that moral progress is impossible.

Emotivism is the view that moral utterances are neither true nor false but are expressions of emotions or attitudes. It leads to the conclusion that people can disagree only in attitude, not in beliefs. People cannot disagree over the moral facts, because there are no moral facts. Emotivism also implies that presenting reasons in support of a moral utterance is a matter of offering nonmoral facts that can influence someone’s attitude. It seems that any nonmoral facts will do, as long as they affect attitudes. Perhaps the most far-reaching implication of emotivism is that nothing is actually good or bad. There simply are no properties of goodness and badness. There is only the expression of favorable or unfavorable emotions or attitudes toward something. [Excerpted chapter summary, on Subjectivism, Relativism, and Emotivism, in Doing Ethics 3rd Edn, by Lewis Vaughn, W W Norton, 2012. (Also see here and here.)]

See where all of this ends -- chaotic, nihilistic absurdity? Given copious warning signs, let us turn back before it is too late:

To do so, we may now stitch the just discussed framework into the historic fabric of natural law thought, noting here a useful video by Shaveen Bandaranayake.

This is key as we are here laying out an objective framework for just law and for reformation, also for resisting unjust impositions under false colour of being law, "law" here being implicitly -- and frankly nihilistically -- redefined as whatever a sufficiently powerful 'recognised' civil authority imposes. (As in, so-called legal positivism ends up implying nihilistically -- though usually unintentionally -- that might makes 'right,' 'rights,' 'justice' and thus too 'law.') Video:

Clipping the screen, we may see a framework for the natural law approach to civil law -- and yes, this means that "sin," "morality," "justice" and legitimacy of law are connected, given our morally governed nature:

This is of course first echoed in foundational classical (here, pagan) thinkers:

By the time we come to the Roman Stoic, statesman and jurist, Marcus Tullus Cicero in De Legibus, c. 50 BC, we find a more developed picture (one that is clearly echoed a hundred years later, in Paul's Epistle to the Romans, in Chs 1, 2 & 13). Let us excerpt from the cite we saw above:
[W]e shall have to explain the true nature of moral justice, which is congenial and correspondent [36]with the true nature of man . . . . “Law (["many learned men"] say . . . ) is the highest reason, implanted in nature, which prescribes those things which ought to be done, and forbids the contrary” . . . . They therefore conceive that the voice of conscience is a law, that moral prudence is a law, whose operation is to urge us to good actions, and restrain us from evil ones . . . .

According to the Greeks, therefore, the name of law implies an equitable distribution of goods: according to the Romans, an equitable discrimination between good and evil. The true definition of law should, however, include both these characteristics. And this being granted as an almost self–evident proposition, the origin of justice is to be sought in the divine law of eternal and immutable morality. This indeed is the true energy of nature, the very soul and essence of wisdom, the test of virtue and vice. 
Let us particularly note, "Law. . .  is the highest reason, implanted in nature, which prescribes those things which ought to be done, and forbids the contrary" and that "the voice of conscience is a law . . . moral prudence is a law, whose operation is to urge us to good actions, and restrain us from evil ones.

This directly ties into the inescapable moral government of our intelligent behaviour, and implies that law is in the first instance built-in, testified to by sound conscience -- coeval with our humanity and not only intelligible but consciously felt within through the verdict of sound conscience. From this, duty to justice, fairness, prudence, truth and right reason then allows us to frame sound civil law and govern ourselves based on a consensus about core requirements of justice.

It is noteworthy that Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, significantly parallels such thinking, also highlighting how the Golden Rule leads to the do no harm principle, thus the key proscriptions in the second tablet of the Decalogue:
Rom 1: 18 For [God does not overlook sin and] the [--> justly deserved] wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who in their wickedness suppress and stifle the truth, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them [in their inner consciousness], for God made it evident to them.

For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature,

[--> NB: including his inherent goodness and utter wisdom acting from Creation and grounding our conscience-attested moral government and core duties to God and neighbour, cf. 2:12 - 16, so too vv 14 - 16 below]

have been clearly seen, being understood through His workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made], so that they [who fail to believe and trust in Him [--> so, too, failing to serve him by doing the good]] are without excuse and without defense [--> i.e. before the bar of eternal judgement and leading to the temporal judgement of chaotic consequences of willful rebellion and sin-dominated cultures detailed in vv 21 - 32] . . . .

Rom 2:
14 When Gentiles, who do not have the [--> Mosaic] Law [since it was given only to Jews], do [c]instinctively the things the Law requires [guided only by their conscience], they are a law to themselves, though they do not have the Law.
[--> that is, there is a core, conscience-attested intelligible law of our morally governed nature that is consistent with the Decalogue, cf. 13:8 - 10 further below]
15 They show that the [d]essential requirements of the Law are written in their hearts; and their conscience [their sense of right and wrong, their moral choices] bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or perhaps defending them 16 on that day when, [e]as my gospel proclaims, God will judge the secrets [all the hidden thoughts and concealed sins] of men through Christ Jesus . . . . 

13:[b]Owe nothing to anyone except to [c]love and seek the best for one another; for he who [unselfishly] loves his neighbor has fulfilled the [essence of the] law [relating to one’s fellowman]. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and any other commandment are summed up in this statement: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor [it never hurts anyone]. Therefore [unselfish] love is the fulfillment of the Law [AMP]
From such parallels, we can also see that the core gospel teaching that we are knowingly guilty of sin, wrong against the built in law of our nature and thus the Giver of that nature makes good sense. We are not creating a list of wrongs out of whole cloth and arbitrarily imposing by abusive power. No, we point to what our consciences already have judged and which we now must address as the guilty. So, we see part of why the gospel is GOOD news, there is an amnesty paid on our behalf.

Turning to the civil law, we can see that it extends to the community first duties and first principles of responsible, rational freedom. Specifically, hammering it home: our known, inescapable duties to truth, to right reason, to sound conscience, to prudence, to neighbour of like nature as we are, to fairness, to justice etc.  Even the objector to such duties, in order to make an argument, is forced to appeal to such. So, immediately, we can freely say that 
Inescapable truths principle: the inescapable is inescapably true, on pain of surrendering responsible rationality.  

We may therefore focus: what, then -- at root -- is human, civil law?

Not, what does the dictionary suggest or what Wikipedia may say, or even what typical legal textbooks and lawyers educated under the schools of thought of recent decades confidently declare, but at core; rooted in what are we as human beings, so again:

Q: Just what is civil law?

ANS: Law, first – echoing Cicero in De Legibus and others – is "highest reason" that lays out the controlling, root-principles and warrants then lays out associated reasonable or prudent rules of sound justice and good order in the community of responsible, reasonable, significantly free, intelligent, morally governed, conscience guided creatures. Us.

Under those solemn duties, rules of justice, prudence and good order are made by "competent authorities," to set out the framework for promoting good order, the civil peace, and for defending it from its many enemies, foreign and domestic.

Where, justice is the due balance of rights, freedoms and duties that gives to each his or her due and expects of each his and her reasonable service under duties of care to the community and its members.

Similarly, core rights are binding, morally driven expectations to be respected and protected in our life, liberty, innocent reputation, sound conscience, honestly acquired property etc.

As a result,

In-the-right principle:  one may only justly claim a right where one is manifestly, demonstrably in the right. There is no right that we may justly claim, that forces others to do evil or to support us in doing evil.

Evil, in turn, being the twisting, frustration, perversion of the good out of its rightful, intelligible end.

From such principles, we can next see that the governing civil authority carries the sword of justice in defence of the civil peace of justice.

Thus, power to issue sound law and to enforce it finds a reasonable basis in the foundational, built-in law of responsible, rational, conscience guided creatures such as we are. Hence,

The Christian Civilisation Principle: The Christian faith is no enemy of sound civilisation, sound government and just law, indeed it helps us to better understand, develop and enforce such on the common ground of our morally governed, responsible, rational creaturehood.

Notwithstanding, in this context, many established laws, customs, regulations or traditions that are longstanding or are passed under solemn ceremonies, robes and colours of law are actually unjust, destructive, ruinous, oppressive or imprudent decrees.

Where, too, not all evils can be abolished at once as rules that are unenforceable will simply bring the law into contempt, inadvertently criminalising many who would otherwise be law abiding. In that regard, a judgement has to be made as to what is forbidden, what is ameliorated or mitigated, what is to be reformed, what is to be strictly licenced, what is to be outright forbidden under due penalty.

And, across time, as the gospel's built-in ethics – yes, our common Western Heritage is a Christian Faith-influenced civilisation – softens hearts and shifts the balance, reforms may gain critical mass support to be moved forward. Democratisation since the 1600's and 1700's and abolition of the slave trade then slavery itself (despite revisionist historians and narratives by ideologues of various stripes) in following decades are capital cases in point. Where, the printing-literacy revolution since c 1450, the ferment surrounding the Protestant Reformation, the rise of newspapers, bills and similar materials, the development of Coffee Shops and similar centres of discussion joined to a slowly rising standard of living allowed a far broader participation in public discourse, with significant influences of Bible ethics. There were many horrors such as the 30 years war in Germany and there was the inevitable groping, trial and error associated with an unprecedented situation. However, gradually, the basis for democratisation was laid and opened the way for civil rights driven reforms, thus what we now enjoy.

The rich tradition of natural law as just outlined also interacted with the Scripture-based thought of the Judaeo-Christian tradition across centuries (note again, Paul in Rom 2:12 - 16 and 13:8 - 10), eventually leading to Thomas Aquinas as a touchstone expression of the Christian understanding of the natural law evident to the mind of sound, conscience-guided reason:

Thus, we have here a coherent framework for civil law as well as a context to appreciate the powerful four-point synthesis drawn up by that most famous "dumb ox" who has filled the world with his bellowing. Yes, drawn up by "the angelic doctor," Professor St Thomas Aquinas, crown jewel of medieval thought, as he further elaborated the Christian Synthesis of what came down from Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and beyond, from the River Valley Civilisations empowered by the agriculture revolution.

As we are often so lacking  in relevant background, let's pause to look at that concept in outline, especially as regards the civilisations of the Fertile Crescent of the ancient near east (while not omitting to mention the centres in the Indus and Yellow River valleys). As a simple tutorial notes:

In prehistory, for thousands of years, humans lived in small groups, banding together to survive by gathering food, hunting and fishing. Then, in the 4th millennium BC, at around the same time, communities in the valleys of a few large river of Asia and Africa, widely separated from each other, took to growing crops systematically. Increased food production led to increase in population, rise of cites and government, and development of writing and art.

These ancient civilizations came up in four river valley systems:
  •     the Mesopotamian civilisation in the Tigris-Euphrates valley (c. 3300 BC - c. 2000 BC [ --> some go to 3500 BC]),
  •     the Egyptian civilisation in the Nile valley (c. 3200 BC - c. 1000 BC),
  •     the Harappan civilisation in the Indus valley (c. 3200 BC - c. 1300 BC), and
  •     the Yellow River (Chinese) civilisation in the Yellow River valley (c. 2000 BC - c. 200 BC).
 Of course, later centres of indigenous civilisation in North, Central and South America are also to be recognised.

Let us notice the link between river valleys, agriculture and key crops:

That oh so humble but sometimes useful secondary source, Wikipedia, helpfully observes:
A river valley civilization or river culture is an agricultural nation or civilization situated beside and drawing sustenance from a river. A "civilization" means a society [--> or, we may safely add, a group of related societies] with large permanent settlements featuring urban development [= "cities"], social satisfaction [--> we are social creatures who thrive in well ordered community], specialization of labor [--> thus, commerce, trade and economic growth], centralized organization [--> government and religion], and written or other formal means of communication [--> record for administration and commerce, thus history and education]. A river gives the inhabitants a reliable source of water for drinking and agriculture. Additional benefits include fishing, fertile soil due to annual flooding, and ease of transportation. The first great civilizations, such as those in Mesopotamia and Egypt, all grew up in river valleys . . . .

Civilizations tended to grow up in river valleys for a number of reasons. The most obvious is access to a usually reliable source of water for agriculture and other needs. Plentiful water and the enrichment of the soil due to annual floods made it possible to grow excess crops beyond what was needed to sustain an agricultural village. This allowed for some members of the community to engage in non-agricultural activities such as the construction of buildings and cities (the root of the word "civilization"), metalworking, trade, and social organization.[3][4] Boats on the river provided an easy and efficient way to transport people and goods, allowing for the development of trade and facilitating central control of outlying areas . . . .

Mesopotamia was the earliest river valley civilization, starting to form around 3500 BC. The civilization was created after regular trading started relationships between multiple cities and states around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Mesopotamian cities became self-run civil governments. One of the cities within this civilization, Ur, was the first literate society in history. Eventually, they constructed irrigation systems to exploit the two rivers, transforming their dry land into an agriculturally productive area, allowing population growth throughout the cities and states within Mesopotamia . . . . 

Egypt also created irrigation systems from its local river, the Nile River, more complex than previous systems. The Egyptians would rotate legumes with cereal which would stop salt buildup from the freshwater and enhance the fertility of their fields. The Nile River also allowed easier travel, eventually resulting in the creation of two kingdoms in the north and south areas of the river until both were unified into one society by 3000 BC.
(Of course, that strongly secularistic source is not going to tie in the fairly obvious intersections with the Biblical Timeline and framework. Especially, city- and empire- founder Nimrod in Gen 10:6 ff.)

We may notice, too, the significance of what came to be called The Fertile Crescent tying together Mesopotamia and Egypt:

This is also the zone where no fewer than three main systems of writing were created, Cuneiform in Mesopotamia, Hieroglyphics in Egypt and the first Alphabetic system along the levantine coast. Often, this is attributed to Phoenecians but there is also an argument that it is Hebraic.  The Hebrews of course, being the root of the Theistic, Judaeo-Christian worldview, the Scriptures and the system of Law tracing to the famous Ten Commandments.

It is also no accident, that the Greek and Roman Alphabets derive from that early script. Indeed, the very word Alphabet tells the story: A and Alpha come from ALEPH, Ox . . . we still see hints of a head and horns.

B or Beta comes from BETH, house . . . where, BETH + LEHEM is, House of Bread.

Genesis 10 is thus an early record of that process, with Nimrod as first strong-man king rising up in idolatrous rebellion against God, with the implication of an oppressive domineering elite prone to lawless action:

Gen 10: 6 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt [= Mizraim in more traditional versions], Put, and Canaan. 7 The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan.

8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. [--> i.e. power-mad, strong man]  9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD [--> some suggest: hunter of men, not merely beasts]. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.”
10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel [--> which accor to Genesis, God scattered due to unity in building the notorious tower, i.e. a high, open-topped temple to worship the starry hosts], Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.
[--> Notice, the recorded central role of powerful, typically fortified, socially stratified cities ruled by strong men dominating water use and flood defence . . . "hydraulic empire" has a point! . . .  and controlling ("protecting") the surrounding agricultural hinterlands in the formation of civilisations. Notice, too, the deep intersection of religion, state, technology and wealth-based power in that process
Obviously, it takes great wealth, technical skill and power to build cities. It is no accident that the very word civilisation is closely connected to the Latin one for cities, civitas, where "citizen" is civis and  "civil" is civilis. All of these are closely connected to the Greek for city-state, polis, from which "politics" comes with echoes in "policy," etc. Of course, most of the great classical empires were city-state based, e.g. Rome. In balance, let us note as has been observed, that the trajectory of Biblical history starts in a garden, pivots on a judicial murder outside a city wall and ends in a heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. Hence, too, we can give a broad historicaly informed colouring to what we may read in say the Collins English Dictionary:
CIVILIZATION:1. (Sociology) a human society that has highly developed material and spiritual resources and a complex cultural, political, and legal organization; an advanced state in social development
the peoples or nations collectively who have achieved such a state
the total culture and way of life of a particular people, nation, region, or period: classical civilization.]
 13 Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 14 Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom  the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.  [ESV]

We thus see hints of the lines of influence coming down to us from Jerusalem, Athens and Rome, with the yet deeper influences of the Fertile Crescent and River Valleys . . . cradle of civilisation . . . behind them.  
 Nimrod, of course, has become a central figure in various Jewish and Christian traditions and in linked speculation. He is often seen as a pioneer of not only civilisations built on apostasy, but of  idolatrous false religious systems with occult influences [starting with Astrology associated with the Tower of Babel] and with secret circles of the initiated powerful. These corrupt power elites then gain ruthless oppressive power by manipulating and domineering the agrarian and urban masses. This is the dark side of hydraulic, river valley civilisation based empire, turning civilisation into a rather mixed blessing right from the beginning; with Nimrod as poster-child. That is a pivotal point, historically, civilisations are a mixed blessing, prone to domination by a lawless, oppressive oligarchic elite.  That theme is echoed repeatedly in the Old and New Testament, and the Prophetic tradition is a counterweight, where men (and some women) repeatedly challenged such elites in the name of our common Creator. 
As can be imagined, casualty rates at the hands of the oligarchs, were high.  
This is key to understanding that the breakthrough over the past several centuries opened the way for new political space, what has become modern, rights-respecting constitutional democratic self government of a responsible free people. If we don't understand the magnitude and fragility of that breakthrough, we will be prone to destabilise and lose it. Would be lawless oligarchs and autocrats are always there, lurking in the wings, and such are ever willing to project demonisation at those who stand in their way even as they seek and scheme ways to gain raw unchecked lawless power. 
This model outlines the new space opened up for constitutional, democratic self-government:
Thus, we can see a more historically anchored political spectrum:

So, let us contemplate the natural law argument in the opening paragraphs of an extraordinary document, with fresh eyes. Namely, the US  Declaration of independence, in key parts, yes, a compromise and yes penned in part by slave holding men, but at the same time a work of men willing to follow first principle truths and frankly set out the key ideals their best insight highlighted even beyond their own behaviour and circumstances. 
The too often overlooked charter of modern, representational, constitutional democracy with regular general elections as a built in audit and base for peaceful reforms guided by due balance of rights, freedoms and duties, i.e. justice:

US DOI, 1776: When . . . it becomes necessary for one people . . . to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . .
Just under a dozen years later this was fleshed out through the US Constitution, which has an extraordinary, covenantal [blessings are conferred by God, and the Lord in question is acknowledged in the date], grand statement, structure:
 US Constitution, 1787 (ratified with the Bill of Rights in Amdts 1 - 10, 1789: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America . . . . [Main Body, Arts I - VII] . . . . Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth. [cf Rom 1:1 - 5] In Witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names. . . . . [AMENDMENTS]
In recent years, the US Library of Congress, in introducing and contextualising a display of founding era documents, noted:
The Continental-Confederation Congress, a legislative body that governed the United States from 1774 to 1789, contained an extraordinary number of deeply religious men . . . both the legislators and the public considered it appropriate for the national government to promote a nondenominational, nonpolemical Christianity . . . . Congress was guided by "covenant theology," a Reformation doctrine especially dear to New England Puritans, which held that God bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its people . . . The first national government of the United States, was convinced that the "public prosperity" of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a "spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens," Congress declared to the American people, would "make us a holy, that so we may be a happy people."
Actually, as the classic, Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, 1579, outlines, there is a double covenant involved:
 "Now we read [especially in the OT] of two sorts of covenants at the inaugurating of kings, the first between God, the king, and the people, that the people might be the people of God. The second, between the king and the people, that the people shall obey faithfully, and the king command justly." [English Trans., A Defence of Liberty Against Tyrants. Ed. Harold Laski. Gloucester, Mass: Peter Smith, 1963, p. 71.]
Professor Bamberg of CAPO adds:

By means of the first covenant, the people form a religious covenant community. By means of the second, the political state arises. This political covenant assures that people will obey the ruler's commands as long as they are just. If the ruler does not fulfill his obligation then the people are absolved from their vows of allegiance. The fact that God includes the people in the parties of the compacts demonstrates that 'the people have a right to make, hold and accomplish their promises and contracts.' The people are not slaves without rights but are responsible to fulfill certain obligations as well as enjoy certain privileges . . . .

The concepts of compact, tyranny and resistance are popularly attributed solely to the Enlightenment figures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. To be sure, this was one means through which these ideas were disseminated, yet, they are actually much older. The language and arguments Adams employs [and this of course includes that collaborative work, the US DOI of 1776] bear striking similarities to the Vindiciae contra tyrannos. . . . [which] does not argue for anarchy. It recommends resistance to tyranny based upon the authority of lower officers of the state [i.e. through their interposition as equally God's agents to do good and protect the community and its members from evildoers, including tyrants by usurpation, corruption or invasion]. As such, it should be considered an argument for a conservative revolution. At the same time, it brought the contract theory into play against the claims of divine right absolutism. In this way it contributed to later contract theory . . . . 

Any revolt must proceed along orderly lines through the lower magistrates . . . . In America, the elected representatives of the people, town councils, Continental Congress or the lower houses of the colonial legislatures were responsible to oppose the tyrant king and Parliament as well as the loyalist lower magistrates, i.e. Massachusetts Governor Hutchinson. Adams felt that the American Revolution met these qualifications. On the other hand, he had nothing but animosity for the rabble revolution in France which claimed the American Revolution as its model. Adams, appalled by the mob rule in Paris, denounced the tyranny of the majority in that revolution . . . .

The social contract theory of civil government [in this context] was an amiable theory to men raised on the covenant theology of New England as Adams had been. The influence of Locke seems evident, but he was welcomed by the New Englanders precisely because he had reformulated the familiar ideas of the Calvinists . . . . Adams, like other American Whigs, derived his theory from the English Civil War tradition which was itself informed by Vindiciae.

Thank God, the properly administered general election provides a peaceful alternative to rebellion and riot.
 Here, too, we will find Gen 11 on Babel helpful, where God's creation of the nations by scattering empire erected in rebellion against him (thus creating counter-weighted balancing power and interests through diversity) is a lesson for all time:
 Gen 11:1 Now [--> after the flood] the whole earth [--> coming from one remnant-family] had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar [= Mesopotamia, between Euphrates and Tigris, with weighting towards the Southern part] and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. [--> lack of stone suitable for building, so they used mud bricks dried and hardened with fire. Iraq, today,in the same area, is a noted source of petroleum, bitumen being the tarry part similar to Trinidad's pitch lake]
  Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 
And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.” [--> creation of diverse, scattered nations as a check against the power of centralised apostate empire. That is, central imperial power is a potential danger]
 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused[a] the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
In another article, Wikipedia . . . and yes, I cite this as a flag that these are speculations rather than well founded facts of history . . . comments:

In Hebrew and Christian tradition, Nimrod is considered the leader of those who built the Tower of Babel in the land of Shinar,[5] though the Bible never actually states this. Nimrod's kingdom included the cities of Babel, Erech, Akkad, and perhaps Calneh, in Shinar (Gen 10:10).[6] Flavius Josephus believed that it was likely under his direction that the building of Babel and its tower began; in addition to Josephus, this is also the view found in the Talmud (Chullin 89a, Pesahim 94b, Erubin 53a, Avodah Zarah 53b), and later midrash such as Genesis Rabba. Several of these early Judaic sources also assert that the king Amraphel, who wars with Abraham later in Genesis, is none other than Nimrod himself.

Since Accad (Babylonian Akkad) was destroyed and lost with the destruction of its Empire in the period 2200–2154 BCE (long chronology), the stories mentioning Nimrod seem to recall the late Early Bronze Age. The association with Erech (Babylonian Uruk), a city that lost its prime importance around 2,000 BCE as a result of struggles between Isin, Larsa and Elam, also attests the early provenance of the stories of Nimrod. According to some modern-day theorists, their placement in the Bible suggests a Babylonian origin—possibly inserted during the Babylonian captivity.[7]

Judaic interpreters as early as Philo and Yochanan ben Zakai (1st century AD) interpreted "a mighty hunter before the Lord" (Heb.: גבר ציד לפני יהוה, ḡibbōr-ṣayiḏ lip̄nê Yahweh, lit. "in the face of Yahweh") as signifying "in opposition to the Lord"; a similar interpretation is found in Pseudo-Philo, as well as later in Symmachus. Some rabbinic commentators have also connected the name Nimrod with a Hebrew word meaning 'rebel'. In Pseudo-Philo (dated c. AD 70), Nimrod is made leader of the Hamites, while Joktan as leader of the Semites, and Fenech as leader of the Japhethites, are also associated with the building of the Tower.[8] Versions of this story are again picked up in later works such as Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius (7th century AD).

The Book of Jubilees mentions the name of "Nebrod" (the Greek form of Nimrod) only as being the father of Azurad, the wife of Eber and mother of Peleg (8:7). This account would thus make Nimrod an ancestor of Abraham, and hence of all Hebrews.

Josephus, as a key example, remarks as follows in Ch 4 of Antiquities of the Jews c. 90 AD:
 Now the sons of Noah were three, - Shem, Japhet, and Ham, born one hundred years before the Deluge. These first of all descended from the mountains into the plains, and fixed their habitation there; and persuaded others who were greatly afraid of the lower grounds on account of the flood, and so were very loath to come down from the higher places, to venture to follow their examples. Now the plain in which they first dwelt was called Shinar. God also commanded them to send colonies abroad, for the thorough peopling of the earth, that they might not raise seditions among themselves, but might cultivate a great part of the earth, and enjoy its fruits after a plentiful manner. But they were so ill instructed that they did not obey God; for which reason they fell into calamities, and were made sensible, by experience, of what sin they had been guilty . . .  [T]hey, imagining the prosperity they enjoyed was not derived from the favor of God, but supposing that their own power was the proper cause of the plentiful condition they were in, did not obey him. Nay, they added to this their disobedience to the Divine will, the suspicion that they were therefore ordered to send out separate colonies, that, being divided asunder, they might the more easily be Oppressed.

2. Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it was through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers !

3. Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than any one could expect . . .  When God saw that they acted so madly, he did not resolve to destroy them utterly, since they were not grown wiser by the destruction of the former sinners; but he caused a tumult among them, by producing in them divers languages, and causing that, through the multitude of those languages, they should not be able to understand one another. The place wherein they built the tower is now called Babylon, because of the confusion of that language which they readily understood before; for the Hebrews mean by the word Babel, confusion.

This, obviously, may profitably be compared with Rom 1, which was directed to a God-fearing Roman audience, c. AD 57, by an educated Jewish thinker, Paul. The parallels are striking:
Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 
 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
  22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! . . . .

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

We may thus see in Nimrod and in Nero and company alike, how a culture can go wrong, without laying too heavy a burden of credit on the speculations that go beyond the specific text.(E.g. see sermon here.)  The point is, 
Decay of Civilisation Principle: civilisations are apt to turn their backs on God, and to ascribe their prosperity to their own strength, falling under lawless oligarchs who lose moral control as they put the creature in the place of the Creator. Leading, to ruin.
On this, scripture clearly warns, through a word to the Israelites as they were about to settle in Canaan, acting as a scourage of judgement on the Amorites who had filled up the cup of their iniquity to the brim and more:

The seven crops, two grains and five fruit
which run through the cycle of the year. From
top, left: wheat, barley, dates, grapes,
figs, pomegranates, olives. [HT: Wiki]

Deut 8:For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat [--> a crop first domesticated in the said Fertile Crescent] and barley,
[--> an inferior but cheaper to grow, more nutritious and hardier grain, a poor man's grain and back-up crop in case of hard times or poorer soil. Note here on cultivation of grains and here on the poor man's crop.
It is worth the while to pause and extend this note, helping us to understand early Fertile Crescent civilisation that goes beyond river valleys:  
"Barley could be grown in poor soil and be broadcast into unplowed ground. Barley was a dependable, disease-resistant crop, easier and less expensive to grow than wheat . . . . Barley has less gluten than wheat, which makes it less desirable for making raised [as opposed to flat] breads. The high gluten content of wheat, and the preference for raised bread, caused wheat to become the most important of
Roti is a familiar flat bread in the Caribbean

the ancient grains.
Though wheat became the preferred grain in the ancient world, barley still played an important part in the diet of the Hebrews. Israelites ate barley and oats as porridge and flatbreads and fed both grains to their animals . . . . It is estimated that bread provided “50-70 % of the ordinary person’s calories [= "staff of life"], and the bread eaten until the end of the Israelite monarchy was mainly made from barley.”[4] The book of Ruth illustrates the importance of barley as a life sustaining grain for the poor."  
These details give us a picture of the relative nature of the prosperity being looked forward to in Deut. 8.  That makes an interesting parallel to our free villages and tropical crop agriculture vs the colonial towns and cities in the Caribbean's post slavery history, leading up to the challenges of today's increasingly digital age.
Of course, the point also is, that c 33 - 100 AD [NT era] , or 600 - 900 BC [divided kingdom monarchies], or  c 1000 [time of Saul, David, Solomon], or the earlier period of 1,000 - 2,000+ BC the urban elites who carried out skilled technical tasks and government lived much better than the hard-scrabble peasants sowing barley on poor, drought, blight and cold spell prone land. The peasants, of course, were the tax base for the elites, where tax was often taken in kind or in forced labour not just cash. 
Hence, we see the force of the warning about oligarchic domination Samuel gave when the Israelite leadership pleaded for a king to lead the nation as chief battle-champion, like the other nations:
1 Sam 8:10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 
 [--> technical classes, loss of farm labour; notice, hint at role of blacksmithing and war as technology driver. But later, c 700 - 800 BC,  we read in Isa 2:1 - 5, of a promised millennial epoch where  "they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks" also that there will be no need to study war any more]
 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. [--> luxuries] 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. [--> cf. the case of unjust seizing of Naboth's vineyard]  15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. [--> in-kind tax rate, in adition to forced labour] 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men[a] and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”]
[Deut 8:8 cont'd:]  of [grape] vines and fig trees and pomegranates [--> one of the earliest domesticated, vitamin-rich fruit], a land of olive trees and honey [--> this may be a syrup made by boiling down date fruit and called date honey, or of course the bee-product],
 [--> These are the seven key crops of the land, in order of their harvest time, cf. here. Agriculture provided the food base for a civilisation, with room for the specialists required by a city-based culture.]

[--> Let us note the c. 1000 BC Gezer Calendar found in 1908, apparently written by Abijah, a scribe whose name would mean Yahweh is my Father:
Two months [olive] gathering (October, November — in the Hebrew calendar Tishrei, Cheshvan)
Two months [wheat/barley] planting (December, January — Kislev, Tevet)
Two months late sowing (February, March — Shvat, Adar)
One month cutting flax (April — Nisan)
One month reaping barley (May — Iyar)
One month reaping and measuring grain (June — Sivan)
Two months [grape] pruning (July, August — Tammuz, Av)
One month summer fruit (September — Elul)
Abij [ah]
[Deut 8 cont'd:]  a land in which you will eat bread [--> wheat or barley] without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing [--> self-sufficiency as a nation], a land whose stones [--> i.e. on/near the surface] are iron,
[--> perhaps, originally meteoritic iron found on the surface of the ground; while smelting iron from ore may trace to 3,000 to 1600 BC, note a key Philistine advantage until David brought 600 Philistines back to Israel with him c. 1,000 BC, blacksmithing. (See a discussion here that is curiously silent on David.) Iron ores are quite common, and are often highlighted by distinct colours, e.g. reddishness for laterites. See an archaeological exercise here. ]
 and out of whose hills you can dig [--> i.e. mine and smelt] copper.
[--> the main basis for bronze, an alloy made with tin and the main technological metal in the Exodus and settlement period, c 1,500 - 1,000 BC. Tin would likely come from trading networks through Phoenecia [~ Lebanon] to Cornwall in Britain. (Tin is rarer than Copper and with a few exceptions such as Cornwall, it is not usually found in the same areas.) So, Israel would have to also produce tradeable goods.]
  10 And you shall eat and be full [--> agricultural self-sufficiency], and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 
 [--> these summarise the agricultural and industrial basis for a prosperous civilisation, here envisioned as under God and with his blessing by implicit contrast with Nimrod et al in Mesopotamia and with Egypt also]
 11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied [--> monetary metals, likely coming from trading, so concentrated in the city elites] and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 
17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’  
18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
A fair warning. 
It is therefore sadly telling that in the 700's BC, the Prophet Isaiah, was moved to warn the corrupt elites of his day, busily imposing inherently oppressive lawless oligarchy by way of moral inversion. The consequence of their folly was obvious, fatal disaffection, defeat, exile at the hands of rising powers from Mesopotamia:

Isa 5:18 Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,

    who draw sin as with cart ropes,
19 who say: “Let him be quick,
    let him speed his work
    that we may see it;
let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near,
    and let it come, that we may know it!”

20 Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
    and shrewd in their own sight!
22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
    and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
    and deprive the innocent of his right!

24 Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble,
    and as dry grass sinks down in the flame,
so their root will be as rottenness,
    and their blossom go up like dust;
for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts,
    and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Several generations later, Ezekiel, a prophet in exile under Babylonian rule some time after 600 BC, spoke of corrupt, incompetent shepherds and the fatter sheep following their bad example:

Ezek 34:1 The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God
Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.  
So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.

“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 

 As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them . . . .

17 “As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God:

 Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. 

 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?

20 “Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: 

Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, 22 I will rescue[b] my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.

This is, of course, a messianic prophecy of the Greater David, Messiah. However, it also speaks to a restoration of a better class of ruler, men like Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubbabel etc.
Similarly, in C1 AD, the theme of the City of Man vs the City of God is taken up in Hebrews as it discusses Abraham as reverting to nomadism to refound civilisation -- literally, city-based culture -- on a godly basis:

Heb 11:By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God . . . .
15 If they [Abraham and family] had been thinking of that land [of Shinar] from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
[--> ultimately, Heavenly Jerusalem, but obviously, Jerusalem is meant to be aprototype and foretaste here on earth. The Scripture teaches that the project of civilisation was tainted with apostasy and egotistical lawless domineering, false political mesianism from the outset. So, it has always been a mixed blessing. So, too,  we see Abraham as a pioneer of reform, of godly  counter-culture alternative that draws on the good but corrects the evil of rebellion against our creator. This, at that time, meant reverting to nomadism and forming a culture of covenant founded on trust in God, which then could build civilised nationhood and  community on godly foundations. As we read, on the eve of the judgement on that byword for decadent, perverse civilisation, Sodom:
 Gen 18:17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?  
19 For I have chosen[f] him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”
However, historically, this project of godly civilisation, from the days of ancient Israel, to the days of Christendom -- the historic self-identity of Christian-influenced Europe and its cultural extensions -- and now in our own time, has ever been prone to apostasy and to fatal compromise with corrupt, ungodly elites leading to a strange, wheat and tares mixture. Therefore, we must seek to more soundly  understand our heavenly citizenship and its priorities (further informed by the errors and sins as well as the blessings and achievements of such consciously Christian communities), lest we become salt without its proper savour or capability to preserve from decay, by putting our light under a bushel. This is how a culture influenced by godliness can be a city on a hill, shining with pure light in a dark world, even as we look to the ultimate culmination. ]

This theme of truly godly counter-culture civilisation comes up again in the same epistle:
Heb  12:18 For you have not come to what may be touched [--> Mount Sinai, at the giving of the Law], a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”  
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Then, again, hammering home the contrast between godly and apostate civilisation (with a telling reference to the Judicial murder of Jesus by corrupt elites, transmuted by God into the pivot of redemption), and the ultimate result:
Heb 13: 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent[a] have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 
 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 
14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 
 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Returning to discussing the fertile  crescent, the same humble source, Wikipedia, notes "Technological advances in the region include the development of agriculture and the use of irrigation, of writing, the wheel, and glass, most emerging first in Mesopotamia."

Those are pivotal technologies for human technological advancement and creation of prosperity.

Taking in the Hindu-Arabic place value notation numbering system with the zero and patterns of crops etc, we can see contributions from other root-centresof civilisation too.

As a further note, soap is another -- civilising! -- legacy of the river valley civilisations. As Open University notes:
How soap came to be discovered is unclear, but we know that the Sumerians were using soap solutions by 3000 BC.
 [The Sumerians] used a slurry of ashes and water to remove grease from raw wool and cloth so that it could be dyed. Sumerian priests and temple attendants purified themselves before sacred rites, and in the absence of soap, they too probably used ashes and water.

The slippery solutions clean because the alkali reacts with some of the grease on an object and converts it into soap. The soap then dissolves the rest of the dirt and grease. The more grease and oil dissolved by the alkaline solution, the more soap there is and the better the mixture cleans.

People would inevitably notice this because they used the slippery solutions repeatedly until the solutions lost their potency. Thus, the Sumerians, realising that a little grease improved the performance of the alkali, proceeded to make soap solutions directly by boiling fats and oils in the alkali before using it for cleaning. Specific directions for making different kinds of soap solution have been found on cuneiform tablets.’ [H. W. Salzberg, From Caveman to Chemist, American Chemical Society, Washington DC, 1991]
However, OU goes on to note: "Soaps were not to be found in early Ancient Roman baths; even Cleopatra was confined to essential oils and fine white sand (as an abrasive) for cleansing." (It seems, it was when more refined, industrially produced more affordable and pleasant to use soaps and the links between soap, killing of germs, sanitation, hygiene and good health were made from the 1700's on that soap began to play its now familiar daily role in civilised life.)

 In that context of roots of civilisation, an odd detail in the Passion narrative is almost unconsciously telling:
John 19: 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. [ESV]
That is, the inscription was written in the C1 language of the Jews, in Greek and in Latin. A subtle foreshadowing.

Over the next four decades, as a part of his calling and mission as Apostle to the gentiles (peoples), Paul of Tarsus -- a Benjaminite Jew and Pharisee, from a Hellenistic Greek city and centre of learning (Tarsus in Cilicia) and a Roman Citizen by birthright -- after he famously was "knocked off his high horse" and "saw the light" of the Risen Christ on the Road to Damascus, would flesh out the core, Christ-centred synthesis that would bring together in a new form the heritage of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome. Such is of course in key part laid out in our New Testament. A telling example, of course, is Eph 4:9 - 24 with following details. I excerpt, first, the fullness of Christ theological framework:

Eph 4:(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he [Jesus] had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?[b] 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
  11 And he gave
  •  the apostles,
  •  the prophets,
  •  the evangelists,
  •  the shepherds[c] and
  •  teachers 
 [--> the five core ministries],[d]
  12 to 
equip the saints for the work of ministry,
building up the body of Christ, 
 13 until 
we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, 
mature manhood,[e] [--> that is]
the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 
 14 so that 
we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  [--> yardstick test.]
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
 Thus, we frame a counter-culture reformational strategy and lifestyle:
Eph 4:17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 
 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
  20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[f] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 

For example, such discipleship involves that:
 Eph 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 
26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 
28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 
 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 
 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
  31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 
32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. [--> and more]
That new form for understanding ourselves and how we are to live in our world, pivots on the light of the Christian gospel and the long established scriptures of the Old Testament, augmented by the fresh Christ-centred insights of the New Testament. It thus sets a new benchmark for thought, worship, family life, education, ethics, service, world of work and commerce, culture and the arts, law, government and indeed civilisation. 
Over the course of centuries -- and in the face of many bloody persecutions and slanders --  it would shatter the Pagan religious forms of the peoples of the Mediterranean basin, leading to a new, deeply ethicaly influenced form of the Civilisation of the West. Thus, Ethical Theism, through the Christian gospel, transformed our vision of what society is and ought to be, further informed by recognising the significance and infinite worth of the individual human soul. Thus, too, we see a concrete case of the real world impact of godly, prophetic, intellectual and cultural leadership as it sparks reformation:

That impact and its heritage, though obviously never perfectly implemented -- there are and never have been, ideal "golden ages" [at least, for ordinary people] -- and leading to a history of very mixed character (just as we were warned regarding wheat and tares . . . cf. parable), has decisively --- and in material part, positively -- shaped the past 2,000 years; an impact that yet lingers today.

Clearly, we have a gospel ethics reformation principle (GERP):
GERP: the gospel and discipleship, by direct implications of built-in gospel ethics, inherently have strong reforming, civilising, positively transformational influence. 
 Something, that was once so generally recognised as undeniable fact, that Jesus was regarded by common acclaim as one of the all time great teachers and reformers of our morally struggling, hypocrisy plagued race.  But, then, even hypocrisy implies acknowledgement that we are morally governed through inescapable first duties. So stubborn and self-serving are we that it bears repeating, this specifically includes duties such as those to truth, to right reason, to prudence, to sound conscience, to neighbour, thus, too, to fairness and justice, etc.  And, one of the key teachings in the most famous sermon in history is this, regarding correcting our tendency to project faults and accusations to belittle and demonise others:
Matt 7: 1  “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

 6  “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. [ESV]

Consequently, as recently as 1940, Sir Winston Churchill . . . personally, not a committed Christian and yes a deeply flawed but unquestionably great Anglo-American statesman [his mother was an American] . . . could freely describe Britain's lonely stand against the aggressive neo-pagan Nazis as a defence of "Christian Civilisation."

That is, of what has been called Christendom. In the words of AmHDict,

1. Christians considered as a group.
2. The portion of the world in which Christianity is the dominant religion.
However, this term of self-identification has become burdened with the history of errors and sins of that civilisation. So much so, some wish to suppress it or to distance themselves from it, or are simply shamed into silence. None of which would deflect controversies or hostility, or the tendency to so emphasise what went wrong that what went right is overlooked . . . to our peril. Thus, it is worth the while to now pause and reflect on Joseph Pearce's challenging view of what an ideal Civilisation and its citizens should look like:
True civilization is a culture animated by the transcendental trinity of the good, the true and the beautiful. The authentic presence of goodness is love and its manifestation in virtue; the authentic presence of truth is to be seen in the culture’s conformity to reason, properly understood as an engagement with the objective reality beyond the confines of egocentric subjectivism; the authentic presence of the beautiful is a reverence for the beauty of Creation and creativity, properly perceived in the outpouring of gratitude which is the fruit of humility. A society informed and animated by such a culture is truly civilized.

A civilized man is not animated by a desire to shape himself into an image of his “self,” which is itself unknowable, but by a willingness to allow himself to be shaped into an image of the perfect Person beyond himself. Responding to Christ’s Trinitarian description of himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life, a civilized man surrenders himself to the Way of Virtue (Love), the Truth of Reason, and the Life of Grace (Beauty). In short and in sum, civilization manifests itself in the conforming of the will of Man to the will of the Giver of all goodness, truth and beauty.

What is civilization? It is the conforming of the heart of humanity to the Heart of Christ, even if, as was the case with pre-Christian cultures, the unknown Christ was present in goodness, truth and beauty and not in his Incarnate Presence.
Pope Benedict XVI, in 2006, did a review of European identity and civilisation that is also significant food for thought. As a part of his reflection, he spoke to:
. . . a peculiar Western self-hatred that is nothing short of pathological. It is commendable that the West is trying to be more open, to be more understanding of the values of outsiders, but it has lost all capacity for self-love. All that it sees in its own history is the despicable and the destructive; it is no longer able to perceive what is great and pure. What Europe needs is a new self-acceptance, a self-acceptance that is critical and humble, if it truly wishes to survive.

Multiculturalism, which is so passionately promoted, can sometimes amount to an abandonment and denial, a flight from one’s own things. Multiculturalism teaches us to approach the sacred things of others with respect, but we can do this only if we ourselves are not estranged from the sacred, from God. With regard to others, it is our duty to cultivate within ourselves respect for the sacred and to show the face of the revealed God—the God who has compassion for the poor and the weak, for widows and orphans, for the foreigner; the God who is so human that he himself became man, a man who suffered, and who by his suffering with us gave dignity and hope to our pain.

Unless we embrace our own heritage of the sacred, we will not only deny the identity of Europe. We will also fail in providing a service to others to which they are entitled. To the other cultures of the world, there is something deeply alien about the absolute secularism that is developing in the West. They are convinced that a world without God has no future. Multiculturalism itself thus demands that we return once again to ourselves. [Europe and its Discontents, First Things, January 2006.]

So, to blindly  recoil in shame and revulsion from the litany of sins of our civilisation, including repudiating its Christian heritage and faith in God, would be suicidal. Instead, we must go back to pivotal achievements as turning points for renewal. Yes, we take due reckoning of the sins of Christendom and the more recent radically secularised culture, but we cannot build on brokenness, we must find ways of reform, we must return to strength, to pivotal achievements and breakthroughs in order to renew. In so doing, let us recognise the historic political spectrum, which implies that from the founding of the first river valley civilisations, we have had power classes and strong men to deal with, with the crucial issue being how to secure the lawful, civil peace of justice and effect sound reforms across time. Where, until the printing-literacy revolution and rise of books, bills, pamphlets, newspapers, Coffee Houses and the like (with the common man's language Bible in the hands of every plough boy or shepherd . . . thus, too, the ferment surrounding the Reformation), there simply was no political space for democratisation, constitutional democracy  and linked gospel ethics driven, freely accepted widespread reforms. As it is, that process was accompanied by horrific wars, most notably the 30 years war. Civilisation, inevitably, is a wheat and tares mixture. So, let us take sober reckoning of such lessons of history as we move forward in our own day.
It is in that broad context, we may consider how, with over a millennium of Christian thought behind him, that the bellowing "dumb ox," Professor St Thomas Aquinas set down his insights on law. He did so in Latin (until recent times, the common language of Scholarship and Education), using alphabetic script, the transformative simplified system of writing that would later empower the printing revolution:
0th: the divine root of reality (including of morally governed creatures) so also of law pivoting on justice, prudence and reason.

1st: the eternal, infinite lawlike order of reality in the mind of God that goes beyond what any finite being can grasp but is the wellspring of sound thought, prudence, justice, sound law as expressing “highest reason” focussed on good governance, just order and sagacious civil government that properly protects the civil peace of justice.

2nd: such law as he reveals to us through Messiah, prophets and apostles, which was recorded in scripture and passed down as sacred, precious writings safeguarded at fearsome cost.

3rd: such law as is naturally evident to us and understood through sound, responsible, wise, prudent reasoning, starting with the already noted prime duties “to truth, to right reason, to prudence [so to warrant], to sound conscience, to neighbourliness [thus, the Golden Rule], to fairness and justice, etc.” This is law that we discover or can discover and should acknowledge; we neither invented it nor can we amend or abolish it. Being coeval with our humanity, it is universally binding.  Obviously, we grow in our understanding and are subject to correction i/l/o sound principles and plumb line self evident first truths. (I dare add, this extends to academic disciplines such as major aspects of the one that studies the logic of structure and quantity, Mathematics. Yes, this involves a much broader, richer view of law as ordering principles that should guide conduct.)

4th: human laws, within communities, in treaties, in legislation passed by governing bodies, in rulings of formal and informal judges, in agreements,in regulations by competent authority, in by-laws, implicit in established due process praxis [cf. here both Erskine May and Robert’s Rules of Order etc . . . both synthesising anglophone parliamentary praxis as hammered out across centuries], or even in customs and living traditions such as the corpus of common law or the line that has come down to us through Corpus Juris Civilis, etc.These references, of course, enfold the main bodies of local, national and international law that are current. Such laws are inevitably imperfect and incomplete so should provide for prudent governance, reform, correction of excess and of error or arbitrariness. Where, no such law purporting to amend or repeal and replace what is built into our being or the fabric of reality can have any true legitimacy. Of course, in inevitably imperfect societies having to deal with the hardness of men’s hearts, this will include ameliorative regulation of longstanding evils that must be opened to sound reform as society becomes more willing to recognise and do the right. This implies, further, that radical relativism, subjectivism, emotivism etc are errors to be repudiated, e.g. consider the implication that a minority or individual calling for reform is automatically “wrong” i.e. reform is a matter of might and manipulation making ‘right,’ ‘rights,’ ‘truth,’ ‘warrant,’ ‘knowledge,’ ‘justice’ etc. Reduction to the absurdity of nihilism.
Next, we may take the fulness of Christ principle, that Christ came, descending and ascending in order to fill (thus, transform) all things, and integrate it with the 4 R's framework and Gospel Ethics Reformation Principle, to identify steps of action towards such gospel ethics based reformation as the church serves as a counter-culture model and embassy of the Kingdom of God as it acts into the kingdoms of man. This will be important as we contemplate cultural relevance and engagement, balancing a tendency for reform-minded Christians to become captured by ideologies that are fundamentally flawed and hostile to the gospel. Whether in the days of the late Roman Empire, or those of self-identification of our inherited civilisation as Christendom, or in our more consciously secular current era.

In steps:


STEP 1: Identify community aspect X and map it to the adapted Seven Mountains framework, clarifying how it fits in in a society.

STEP 2: Recognise the core substantial faith once for all delivered to the saints (thus, the systematic, coherent structure of the Faith) and how its authenticity can be established generally and in the given context. (This recognises the general and particular Christian apologetics challenge.)

STEP 3: Recognise the Cornerstone principle, the linked programme of God's action, our missionary mandate and how the Christocentric fullness vision serves as an articulating, operationalising principle.

STEP 4: Consider again X as it is and what it would become, X*, were it filled with Christ's redemptive, transforming power and just judgement.

STEP 5: Do a "gap analysis," X* - X = delta-X, defining the change and change process involved.

STEP 6: Is X redeemable or reformable, or would it have to go out of existence as it is intrinsically evil and destructive, not just warped by evils? (That is, X* = 0 so delta-X = -X.) If the latter, is that cessation credibly feasible now [why?], or is it only feasible in future or on "that day." In the latter cases, how can it be ameliorated, or how can we set a counter-cultural demonstration example, a foretaste of what will be in fullness at the coming?

STEP 7: If through general progress of gospel ethics, heart softening and sound advance of civilisation under reforming influence, abolition or major reformation/transformation are feasible today, how can this be carried forward through the church's acting as an embassy of the Kingdom of God?

STEP 8: Exert prophetic, intellectual and cultural leadership in respect to X, through the span of the gospel and its integral ethics; as a part of the church's operations under its mandate. 

STEP 9: Integrate into the structure of theology and incorporate into the systematic framework in an appropriate way, in balance with the rest of what we must collectively be faithful to. 

We can then cross this with the cube of political possibilities and spectrum, so we can better understand modern Constitutional Democratic polities, their roots [including the breakthroughs from c 1450 with Gutenberg and movable type printing to 1787 September 17th when the US Constitution was signed] and the lawless  dangers we now needlessly, too often heedlessly, trifle with.

For ease of reference, we recall:

Here, it is also worth the while to make a note on how the natural law and scripture interact, through a case study that is also significant as creation order, naturally based conjugal marriage is now under challenge from radical secularists.

For, yes, it is now relevant to systematic theology to remark in brief regarding the manifest roots of marriage and marriage law; literally a law written into our genes by way of XY and XX chromosomes and linked biological development. Let us do so by briefly examining how Jesus responded to a challenge about divorce, by making in key parts a paradigmatic example of natural law reasoning from a classic source, of course, integrated with appeal to scripture and Creation order:
Matt 19:3 And Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” [–> a current issue and debate in Jewish law, theology and social thought]

4 He replied, “Have you never read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female [–> naturally evident creation order rooted in the inherently good, utterly wise creator-God], 5 and said, ‘For this reason [–> note, fulfillment of such naturally evident creation order purpose is reasonable] a man shall leave his father and mother [–> family of origin showing requisites of nurture, and identifying the chain of reproduction] and shall be joined inseparably to his wife [–> a successive generation of family], and the two shall become one flesh’?

6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
[–> a stricture that puts divorce on the defensive, how much more so, that which flies in the face of sound creation order manifest in our genes and bodies. This is a fortiori logic in action. Notice, this argument pattern can cogently reason "how much more" and "just as that, so this too" etc. Where, yes, core principles of reason are principles of sound law. No wonder Cicero echoed the received wisdom c. 50 BC: “Law (say they) is the highest reason, implanted in nature, which prescribes those things which ought to be done, and forbids the contrary.”]

7 The Pharisees said to Him, “Why then did Moses command us to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8 He said to them, “Because your hearts were hard and stubborn
[–> the diagnosis: hardness of heart, implying needed ameliorative regulation of social evils towards sound reformation and minimisation of the evil]
Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. [AMP]
Immediately, it is patently false that the Bible is devoid of relevant legal reasoning that uses the natural law, setting a powerful precedent or even a paradigm!

The case also shows how civil law must cope with established evils, and so may be imperfect but prudent and responsible; bearing in mind that hardness of hearts limits how much community support a proposed reform of law may have. This reflects that, absent a critical mass of support, laws may be dead letters, i.e. law is downstream of cultural reformation and requires sufficient freedom of conscience, speech, publication and association that frank community discussion is there to enable needed onward reformation. Where, echoing Ac 5:29,  in the end, we must obey God, rather than man, in the face of manifest injustice and conscience-stifling oppression. And, we also see here a case of how scriptural teaching and natural law evident to reason intersect and mutually support, providing a context for both amelioration and sound reform.

Which, provides for genuine progress that does not go over the cliff.

Such principles bring back to the fore the question of where the BATNA points are on the  Overton Window, and why; thence, how they move across time for good or ill. So, let us again ponder:

This case also illustrates how Aquinas is right in his link between scripture and natural law; indeed here the Scriptures contain a Dominical saying that is an exercise in natural law reasoning pivoting on there being a naturally evident creation order!

Let's add an insight that includes Augustine's thoughts on what a state that does not uphold and defend the civil peace of justice becomes, but showing the shift of emphasis to the Biblical framework (which as we saw, endorses key aspects of the natural law principle). Notice, too, Aquinas' principle that unjust decrees under colour of law are a violation of the higher law rooted in our Creator [and evident from principles of justice] and so have no right to expect obedience.
In the words of the Apostles, commanded to violate conscience and cease to teach the gospel truths they were witnesses to, we must obey God rather than men:

 This protest by the apostles and the associated remarks by Augustine and Aquinas lead us to a powerful general principle of law, once we recognise that principles of built-in moral government are part of our nature as responsible, rational, significantly free creatures:

The Universality of Sound Natural Law Principle: Insofar as a piece of legal argument successfully soundly lays out our built-in moral government in ways enforceable by legitimate government (as opposed to personal ethics etc), it is generally . . . globally . . . binding and should be recognised as such. (Of course, precisely because of universality and intelligibility in light of inescapable first duties of responsible reason (to truth, to right reason, to prudence, to sound conscience, to neighbour, so to fairness and justice etc.), different, substantially equivalent formulations in civil law, contracts, treaties and even treatises or popular songs etc will be commonly found. This, too, is how sound conscience is a legislator, as Cicero recognised.)

As a striking case in point, we may further contemplate key aspects of the justly famous second paragraph of the US Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, which is the charter for modern, constitutional, represerntative democracy:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 – 21, 2:14 – 15; note, law as “the highest reason,” per Cicero on received consensus], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . .
Later on, as we can see from King Alfred of the West Saxons, in his Book of Dooms, the Common Law system began, "When God was speaking to Moise, this is what he said . . . " Then, Alfred and his Witans cite the Decalogue, other Mosaic law and the results of the AD 48/9 Church Council in Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15. The Golden Rule was also cited as having force of law, and the Common Law system itself is undeniably deeply influenced by Biblical thought. We can see also this from Blackstone in a famous passage from his Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1765 on (which for over a centurey was a principal textbook for those seeking to become lawyers). He of course wrote within the Judaeo-Christian, common law tradition.

Let us trim his remarks, to get the heart of the matter:
Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769)
Sir William Blackstone
INTRODUCTION, SECTION 2 Of the Nature of Laws in General . . .
[L]aws, in their more confined sense . . . denote the rules, not of action in general, but of human action or conduct: that is, the precepts by which man . . . a creature endowed with both reason and freewill, is commanded to make use of those faculties in the general regulation of his behavior. Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his creator, for he is entirely a dependent being  . . .  And consequently, as man depends absolutely upon his maker for every thing, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his maker’s will
This will of his maker is called the law of nature. For as God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those  . . .  [A]s he is also a being of infinite wisdom [--> notice, utterly wise so also inherently good], he has laid down only such laws as were founded in those relations of justice, that existed in the nature of things antecedent to any positive precept. These are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil . . . and which he has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions. Such among others are these principles: that we should live honestly, should hurt nobody, and should render to every one his due; to which three general precepts Justinian has reduced the whole doctrine of law. [ --> In introductory remarks in the built-in textbook, Institutes, for Corpus Juris Civilis] . . . 

This Judaeo-Christian tradition influenced framework leads us to John Locke, which we may again cite from his Second Treatise on Civil Government, Ch 2 Section 5 (written at about the time of the Glorious Revolution), with an extension of Locke's own cite from Canon Richard Hooker:
[2nd Treatise on Civil Gov't, Ch 2 sec. 5:] . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [This directly echoes St. Paul in Rom 2: "14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them . . . " and 13: "9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law . . . " Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [Eccl. Polity ,preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.] [Augmented citation, Locke, Second Treatise on Civil Government, Ch 2 Sect. 5. ]
At a deeper, cultural level, the Great English-American statesman, sometime Army Officer and writer, Sir Winston Spencer Churchill writes, in introductory remarks for vol. 1 of his History of the English-Speaking Peoples, as follows:
 Our story centres in an island, not widely sundered from the Continent, and so tilted that its mountains lie all to the west and north, while south and east is a gently undulating land-scape of wooded valleys, open downs, and slow rivers. It is very accessible to the invader, whether he comes in peace or war, as pirate or merchant, conqueror or missionary. Those who dwelt there are not insensitive to any shift of power, any change of faith, or even fashion, on the mainland, but they give to every practice, every doctrine that comes to it from abroad, its own peculiar turn and imprint.

A province of the Roman Empire, cut off and left to sink or swim in the great convulsion of the Dark Ages; reunited to Christendom, and almost torn away from it once more by the heathen Dane [--> under Alfred the Great]; vic-torious, united, but exhausted, yielding, almost without resist-ance, to the Norman Conqueror; submerged, it might seem, within the august framework of Catholic feudalism, was yet capable of reappearing with an individuality of its own.

Neither its civilisation nor speech is quite Latin nor quite Germanic. It possesses a body of custom which, whatever its ultimate sources may be—folk right brought from beyond the seas by Danes, and by Saxons before them, maxims of civil juris-prudence culled from Roman codes—is being welded into one Common Law.
This is England in the thirteenth century, the century of Magna Carta, and of the first Parliament. [pp. x, xi]
 Where, in that Magna Carta penned by Archbishop of Canterbury Samuel Langton and sealed at sword-point by King John at Runnymeade on the Thames just outside of London in 1215, we find seminal, breakthrough principles of liberty and of just government under law recorded for the first time in a Constitutional document:
"+ (39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land

+ (40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.
It is on these pivotal principles that, over the next five and a half centuries, modern representational democracy  -- the greatest engine of lawful freedom and broad-based, sustained economic progress the world has ever seen -- would be built through accumulated reform and revolution. (Such, we will further take up, below, as we contemplate the rise and history of Christendom.)

All of this then sets a context for the themes in the first and second paragraphs of the 1776 US Declaration of Independence; the point of breakthrough. Again, it seems advisable to cite and highlight so we can readily see the themes running through the above:
When . . . it becomes necessary for one people . . . to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . . .
This was the point of breakthrough that led to modern representational democracy. However, for us to understand more of what is lurking here, we need some further context. 

It will be helpful to consider a different political spectrum model from the usual Left/Right one (which originally had monarchists to the Right and more or less has had socialists of various stripes to the left). Instead, let us consider a "mainstream" spectrum, from autocratic tyranny, to oligarchy, to the lawful (but not democratic) state, to Constitutional Democracy, and onwards to the minimalist libertarian state and then anarchic chaos or the "state of nature":

Here, we can consider three dimensions of government: degree of state power, framework of lawfulness, leadership. In that light, we can note that historically, with the masses taken up with labour and day to day survival and without widespread primary level education, also lacking a daily press to promote public political education and mass opinion formation, the most one could hope for was fair-minded ruling classes acting under a corpus [= "body"] of just law. 

But through Gutenberg's invention of the printing press and the turmoil surrounding the Reformation, circulation of the Bible in vernacular languages, increased literacy and access to primary education and formation of organised, mass based public opinion became possible in Northern Europe, especially the British Isles. This also extended to the North American colonies. So, by the 1680's and on, the framework principles for modern democracies had begun to emerge.

 In Britain and the Americas, we then saw the initial Evangelical revivals with the Wesleys and George Whitefield being especially prominent. These movements had a heart-softening, transformational reforming impulse latent within them. (It is no accident that these movements fed into the push to eradicate first the slave trade and then chattel slavery.)

It is in this ferment that the double covenant understanding, of nationhood under God and of just government with the consent of the governed under God emerged. Through this view, if a ruler became tyrannical and would not listen to remonstrances or petitions for redress, then lower magistrates [who could be emerging popular leaders] could interpose themselves between the tyrant and those being oppressed; such, also being actual or candidate civil authorities under God with legitimate support of the people. In that context, reformation or replacement of government gone bad could be undertaken lawfully. 

This opened up the space for Constitutional, Representative Democratic Governments with regular, scheduled general elections. Eventually, we would also see those who clamored for minimal government [the Libertarians] or even no government. However, this last is so chaotic that it is pictured as a repeller pole that can lead to a snap-back to tyranny in hope of restored order. 

We may wish to ponder, then, whether an alternative political spectrum might be a better framework for analysis and action:

As a caution, this can be used, with the Overton Window concept, to explain how radical revolutions so consistently descend into lawless ideological oligarchy and reigns of terror ever since Robespierre and the other Jacobins in France from 1789 on:


Much the same would obtain for an actual modern "theocracy" -- as opposed to ill founded and often bigotry-laced stigmatising smears -- which would impose an oligarchic religious ideology in disregard of key, legitimate rights rooted in the natural law. (Which, recall, is in key parts is endorsed in the NT, and frames core first duties to truth, right reason, prudence (including due warrant for knowledge or fact claims), sound conscience, neighbour, so too fairness and justice, etc.) Actual theocracy, we may readily see in say Iran, where through radical revolution the Mullahs have dominated the political structure since 1979, crushing rights, even vetoing nominated candidates for election. Likewise, one cannot simply make up rights claims as one wishes, the civil peace of justice requires due balance of rights, freedoms and duties so one can only legitimately claim a right where one is manifestly in the right. This means, that there can be no right to compel another to do evils or to enable one in evils. Conscientious objection in good faith is a key sign of this issue. The obvious concern is to stop a slide into lawless oligarchy, under whatever ideological flag, including ill-founded imposed rights claims used to slander conscientious objectors as hateful bigots and oppressors.

With such a wide range of factors in mind, we can then evaluate the reformation challenge in light of the seven mountains of influence model, which (while recently promoted by Wallnau et al) reportedly traces to Bill Bright, Loren Cunningham and Francis Schaeffer in the 1970's:

But, widespread or even general acknowledgement of many of these points or even most of the above as more or less useful rules of conduct  and what many have considered to be a sound framework for law and government is not the same as to further acknowledge that the sort of wrong we are contemplating is bindingly, objectively, universally something that OUGHT not to be done. 

And indeed, many will boldly assert today that it cannot be proved that it is absurd to reject the notion that core moral principles are objective and universally binding. Indeed an actual argument made is oh, how can you PROVE that such a list of truths is coherent? 

(My reply was, after several rounds:
 "truths must all be so together, a key point of a coherent world: on distinct identity the triple first principles obtain and so no x is both A and not-A, and so too no two truths x and y can be such that y = NOT-x. In this context, each of the 12 being in turn directly credibly true on grounds of patent absurdities on attempted denial, they are immediately credibly coherent. Next, it so happens that the principles are in fact linked together in a chain so they are mutually supportive and relevant, in fact framing the basis for moral principles in governance." 
 The onward question was absolute certainty regarding coherence, to which I responded that not even Mathematics -- the logical study of structure and quantity -- post Godel is absolutely certain, and that the relevant degree of certainty is moral, where I would be confidently willing to cast the weight of my soul on the above, and would be prepared to bet the future of civilisation on them. [Indeed, whatever moral view we take, we are casting the weight of our souls and the future of civilisation on it. The ethical component of our worldviews is awesomely momentous.])

So in the view of too many today, we are left to the feelings of revulsion and the community consensus backed up by police and courts on this.

 Not so.

Compare a fish, that we lure to bite on a hook, then land, kill and eat for lunch without compunction. And even for those who object, they will do so by extension of the protective sense we have about say the young child -- not the other way around. But, unless there is a material difference between a young child and a fish, that sense of wrong is frankly delusional, it is just a disguised preference, one that we are simply willing to back up with force. 

So, already, once we let radical relativism and subjectivism loose, we are looking at the absurdity and chaos of the nihilist abyss, might (and manipulation) makes for 'right.'


At the pivot of the skeptical objections to objective moral truth, notwithstanding persistent reduction to absurdity,  is the pose that since we may err and since famously there are disagreements on morality, we can reduce moral feelings to subjective perceptions tastes and preferences, dismissing any and all claims of objectivity much less self evidence. 

So, the objector triumphantly announces: there is an unbridgeable IS-OUGHT gap, game over.

Not so fast, as there is no better reason to imagine that we live in a moral Plato’s Cave world, than that we live in a physical or intellectual Plato’s Cave world.

That is, we consider the imagined world of Plato where the denizens, having been imprisoned from childhood, all imagine that the shadow shows portrayed for their benefit are reality. Until, one is loosed, sees the apparatus of manipulation, then is led outside and learns of the reality that is there to be discovered. Then he tries to rescue his fellows, only to be ridiculed and attacked:


Where, given its importance, let us again observe how worldviews shape community life:

So, yet again we see how a reformational alternative may arise:

Now, the skeptical question is, do we live in such a delusional world (maybe in another form such as the brains in vats or the Matrix's pods . . . ), and can we reliably tell the difference?

The best answer to such is, that such a scenario implies general delusion and the general un-trustworthiness of our senses and reasoning powers.

So, it undercuts itself in a turtles all the way down chain of possible delusions -- an infinite regress of Plato's cave delusions.

Common good sense then tells us that the skeptic has caught himself up in his own web, his argument is self referentially incoherent.

This may seem so outlandish that a live example will help, here on from a real blog discussion thread exchange:
 CS, 176: . . . you see, it’s not that I don’t perceive other individuals “out there. It’s that I’m not sure about what the external world “really is.” It could be an illusion. Or it could have a reality close to what I’m perceiving. There’s no way to know for sure. In the end, I’m only sure that I’m conscious and experiencing “the external world.” But I don’t have a surety about the nature of “the external world.” Pragmatically, I assume it exists, because I really have no choice, unless I want to just lie down and do nothing.

WJM, 183: . . .  You [CS] have stated that your epistemological solipsism means that you cannot be sure of what exists outside of your mind – or even if there is an existence outside of you mind.

My question to you, then, is: can you be sure of what does not exist outside of your mind?

CS, 184: . . . No. Can you?

WJM, 185: So, you cannot be sure that morality is not a commodity that exists objectively outside of your mind?

CS, 189: Correct. It may very well be. But I can’t be sure of it. Neither do I perceive anything that would make me think it is true . . . 
 The onward cascade of doubts and/or delusional worlds, though implicit, is painfully patent.  This participant is neither confident of the external nor the internal worlds, and ends up in an arbitrary and confessedly blind faith that something is "out there" and "in here" nonetheless. Which boils down to, s/he cannot live consistent with his or her view.

So also, the proper stance in response to such is that this sort of appeal to general doubt or general delusion about major aspects of reality and the mind reduces to absurdity. In response, we should hold that it is senseless to assume or imply the general dubiousness or delusion of any major faculty of mind, precisely because of that absurd result. Including, of course, conscience as that candle of the Lord within, shining a sometimes painful  light into some very dark corners of our thoughts, words and deeds.

Instead, until and unless we can find evidence of specific error, we will confidently hold to what seems to be reliable, common sense reality; beginning with the bench-mark truths that are self-evident and foundational (e.g. first truths and first principles of right reason . . . ), which we will use as plumb-lines to test the systems of thought we hold. Yes, as finite, fallible, intellectually and morally struggling creatures, we must live by faith, but there is no reason why such faith should be blind, hopeless and/or absurdly irrational. Thus, we proceed on common good sense and solid first principles, until and unless we see specific good evidence and reason to acknowledge and turn from specific error.  Which, we pledge to promptly do, out of our sense of a duty of care to seek and follow the truth through good reasoning on credible evidence.

 H'mm -- isn't that an OUGHT?

Yes it is.

No surprise.

And, a big hint on the nature of the underlying foundational IS that grounds OUGHT.

So also, we see the absurdities implied by attempted denial of moral reality through reducing it to mere [potentially] delusional subjective perceptions. Even the much prized or even vaunted rationality is in the stakes!

For, if our minds are that delusional on so important a matter, we have decisively undercut the mind, period.

Which should be patent, once we give it a moment’s thought in light of our experience and understanding of the world we live in.

It is reasonable to hold and accept instead that: just as we have minds that allow us to make sense of the signals of our external world accessed through seeing and hearing, forming a coherent picture of the world, we have a generally [as opposed to absolutely] trustworthy sense -- conscience -- that is detecting and responding to duty in light of the value of those we interact with. 

Or, as John Locke so tellingly put it in the Introduction, Section 5, of his essay on human understanding (again, c. 1690):
 Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 - 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better.
How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 - 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 - 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 - 21, Eph 4:17 - 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 - 21, Jer. 2:13Titus 2:11 - 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . [.]
It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 - 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . [.]
If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Text references added to document the sources of Locke's allusions and citations. Paragraphing added.]

Now, too, we have already seen grounds for understanding and acknowledging that there are objective truths that we subjects can access and know using our senses and faculties of conscious thought, even to undeniable certainty in certain key cases.

The question behind this thread of thought, now, is whether this extends to the domain of OUGHT.

And, a specific (and unfortunately, real world) candidate has been put: that it is self evident that it is wrong to kidnap, torture, rape and murder a child.

The peculiar thing is that for all the skeptical arguments that have so often been raised in reply to this case [which, unfortunately, is based on real world events and the sad fate of a real child], we consistently find very little evidence of open direct denial.

Instinctively, objectors realise that to deny this truth plainly is to admit to moral deficiency, to be morally defective in an absurd way.

So, consistently the challenges raised in various fora have been indirect; intended to undermine and redefine morality in ways that — while such is not usually openly admitted — amount to might and manipulation make ‘right.’

Where, of course: the child is a proverbial example of one who is not able to appeal to strength or persuasive ability, especially in the face of a kidnapper.

That is, might makes 'right' would rob children of their rights -- as arguably has already been happening with children still in the womb.

Where, too, all of us here to read and discuss this once were children in the womb and then growing children walking around in a world where there are such things as predators like this.

And so the hesitation to be brazenly direct and dismissive is easily explained as hesitation to openly embrace moral absurdity; and, the widespread attempts to instead seek to undermine the general objectivity and binding nature of OUGHT therefore stand exposed as little more than irresponsible evasions and obfuscations.

So also, we see indirect inadvertent evidence that even those who deny objectivity to morality recognise it.

Thus, objectors are inadvertently testifying against interests that they too are quite aware of an inner sense — usually termed conscience — that senses, makes sense of and responds strongly to morality even as eyes sense light and ears sound thence minds manifest an awareness of the world based on such sight and sound.

The conscience speaks.

That brings up the root issue: conscience is invisible, as conscious mind is invisible, and in a materialism-influenced age, seeing is believing.

Oops, seeing the physical world depends on that invisible, familiar but mysterious consciousness, and rocks — whether fancy bits of silicon or peculiar cells that pass ion currents and thus signals in networks similar to solid state electronic logic gates  -- have no dreams.

Yet another sign of the irretrievable incoherence and factual inadequacy of materialism and its fellow travellers. So, we have no good reason to reject the objectivity of being bound by OUGHT.

And, just by observing the pattern of human quarrels -- we habitually appeal to fairness that is binding upon us all, we find that the sense of ought is near universal and forms a core consensus that we ought to be treated fairly in light of simply being human, the exceptions being accountable for on much the same grounds as that some people have become blind. (I will never forget the videotaped last words cry of a man in a gas chamber, even as the gases were being released: I am a human being! [How this was allowed out on news way back when, I don't know.])

We recognise that we have quasi-infinite worth, which should not be violated. Thus, we see our sense of justice and of the difference between luring and catching a fish to become lunch and luring and despoiling then destroying a child. (Where, that some take pity on the fish and will go out of their way to eat only vegetables is itself further eloquent testimony on the point. [Notice, there is no "people for the ethical treatment of fruit, root starches, grains and vegetables" movement.])

As the ghost of that child tells us, OUGHT, then, is credibly real -- objective and binding; which then points onward to a foundational IS that properly bears the weight of OUGHT.

Notoriously, there is but one level of reality where that can enter, the foundation

Namely, the best explanation for the binding nature of core morality leading to our being under moral government, is a Moral Governor. This Governor would be the inherently good creator God who has endowed us with minds, hearts, consciences and rights; thus also, duties.

 In a world where God is the foundation, OUGHT makes sense, and is grounded in a foundational IS. Refuse to acknowledge God in light of evidence that he is real -- including that of finding ourselves under the binding force of the moral government of OUGHT -- and we lose anchorage for morality, rights, fairness, justice, law and civilisation. Opening the door to absurd chaos. 

 That is, if evil is real and objectionable, OUGHT is real. This, we face the challenge to bridge the IS-OUGHT gap, which can only be done at world-foundation level.

For which, after many centuries of debates, there is but one serious candidate: the inherently good Creator-God, a necessary and maximally great being.

Hence, the force of the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, when it confidently asserts:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . .
This is of course historically pivotal in the rise of modern liberty and democratic self government guided -- however inevitably imperfect and struggling the reality! -- by the twin stars of liberty and justice for all.

However, while that is relevant onward when we turn to the challenges of discipleship and reformation (below) we need to pull together a framework for ethical theism, more or less along lines outlined in Rom 1:
[Ethical Theism:] The above considerations draw out how our inner and outer lives are inescapably morally governed, starting with our minds. For, we see that equally inescapably, we are governed in our thinking by duties to truth, to right reason, to prudence (thus, warrant), to conscience (as an inner moral light), to neighbourliness, to fairness and justice etc. Where, were such delusional, the tainting of our minds would reduce to grand delusion. So, starting with our minds, we operate on both sides of the IS-OUGHT gap, requiring an adequate bridge. This can only be done at the root of reality, on pain of ungrounded ought. So too, we need an inherently good source of reality as the root of all worlds. One may freely try to propose an alternative: ______ and to warrant it on comparative difficulties: _____ ; however, it will soon be evident why, after centuries of debates, there is but one serious candidate. Namely, the inherently good and utterly wise creator God, a necessary (so, eternal) and maximally great being. One, who is worthy of loyalty and of the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good that accords with our evident, morally governed nature.
A further, broader comparison with Rom 1, 2 and 13 will be illuminating:
Rom 1:18 For [God does not overlook sin and] the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who in their wickedness suppress and stifle the truth, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them [in their inner consciousness], for God made it evident to them.

  20 For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through His workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made], so that they [who fail to believe and trust in Him] are without excuse and without defense.

  21 For even though [d]they knew God [as the Creator], they did not [e]honor Him as God or give thanks [for His wondrous creation]. On the contrary, they became worthless in their thinking [godless, with pointless reasonings, and silly speculations], and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God for [f]an image [worthless idols] in the shape of mortal man and birds and four-footed animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their own hearts to [sexual] impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them [abandoning them to the degrading power of sin], 25 because [by choice] they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! . . . . 
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God or consider Him worth knowing [as their Creator], God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do things which are improper and repulsive, 29 until they were filled (permeated, saturated) with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil . . . . 

2:14 When Gentiles, who do not have the Law [since it was given only to Jews], do [c]instinctively the things the Law requires [guided only by their conscience], they are a law to themselves, though they do not have the Law. 15 They show that the [d]essential requirements of the Law are written in their hearts; and their conscience [their sense of right and wrong, their moral choices] bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or perhaps defending them 16 on that day when, [e]as my gospel proclaims, God will judge the secrets [all the hidden thoughts and concealed sins] of men through Christ Jesus . . . . 

13:[b]Owe nothing to anyone except to [c]love and seek the best for one another; for he who [unselfishly] loves his neighbor has fulfilled the [essence of the] law [relating to one’s fellowman]. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and any other commandment are summed up in this statement: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor [it never hurts anyone]. Therefore [unselfish] love is the fulfillment of the Law.

11 Do this, knowing that this is a critical time. It is already the hour for you to awaken from your sleep [of spiritual complacency]; for our salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed [in Christ]. 12 The night [this present evil age] is almost gone and the day [of Christ’s return] is almost here. So let us fling away the works of darkness and put on the [full] armor of light. [AMP]

All of which now brings us to the significance of:

Biblical theism: "just the facts . . . "

Generic ethical theism is plainly a credible and powerful worldview, but does this extend to the historical foundations of the Christian Faith itself? 

In short, what are the pivotal facts? 

A good place to begin is the point in Unit 1, where we observed:
[O]ne may -- and in the case of Josh McDowell, did (cf. shocking video) -- first examine the NT record objectively as authentic, adequately preserved and transmitted eyewitness-lifetime primary historical source material, then find it sound as history, then go on to personal encounter with the living God in the face of the risen Christ, and then on that strength of miraculous spiritual transformation draw the further spiritual conclusion that it is also God-inspired Holy Scripture that "cannot be broken."
The astute reader will see that hitherto, we have emphasised the historical reliability of especially the NT scriptures, and have gone on to point to the accuracy of OT prophecies that are fulfilled in the Christ event that the NT reports.

That is quite deliberate.

The natural road to high confidence in the Judaeo-Christian Scriptures of the Holy Bible is to see that he NT speaks the truth, and that there is an astonishing and miraculous feature in them: fulfillment of prophecies of the redemptive Messiah. Then, through repentant trust in the living God in the face of Christ, one may come to trust the God who stands behind the history and prophecies and through that encounter find salvation and transformation of life. In that context, it is natural to take the attitude to the Scriptures that that Messiah who died for our sins, was buried and rose again "according to the scriptures" took: "the Scripture cannot be broken." [Jn 10:35]

Theologian Clarke Pinnock has aptly summarised this view:
Why, in the last analysis, do Christian people believe the Bible is God’s Word? Not because they have studied up on Christian evidences and apologetics, however useful these may prove to some. Christians believe the Bible because it has been able to do for them exactly as Paul promised it would [i.e. in 2 Tim 3:13 – 17]: introduce them to a saving and transforming knowledge of Christ. Reasons for faith and answers to perplexing difficulties in the text, therefore, are supportive but not constitutive of faith in God and his Word. Faith rests ultimately, not on in human wisdom, but in a demonstration of the Spirit and power. [The Scripture Principle, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1985), p. xix.]

Or, as the magisterial theologian John Wenham summarised in a similar vein, in responding to skeptical objections to this attitude to the scriptures among learned theologians:
H. E. W. Turner [16] has distinguished two basic approaches to the Gospels: the historical and the interpretative. The former believes that the Gospels were intended to be historical records, the latter that they were essentially propaganda, written to present a particular view of Jesus. The former assumes [in accordance with the standard approach of historical scholarship in dealing with prime source documents that are fair on the face]  that the records are true unless good reason can be showed to the contrary; the latter assumes the opposite. The attitude of Bultmann and his school to a Gospel-saying has been summarised as . . . '(1) If it reflects the faith of the church after the resurrection, it must be regarded as a creation of the church, rather than an authentic saying of Jesus. (2) If there is a parallel saying attributed to a Rabbi, it must be held as a Jewish tradition which has been erroneously attributed to Jesus. But if it is neither -- if it is clearly distinct both from the faith of the church and from Judaism -- then it may be safely accepted as authentic.' [17] This means of course that any appeal to Scripture by Jesus is at once suspect. This approach produces an improbable view of both Jesus and the early church. Jesus becomes an eccentric who took almost nothing from his environment. The church becomes inexplicable, since it took almost nothing from its master. Rather it so altered what it received from him that its teaching can be seen in sharp contrast to the few sayings which it preserved. [Christ and the Bible, (Guilford, Surrey, England: Eagle, 1993), pp. 45 - 46. Emphasis added.]
16: H. E. W. Turner, Historicity of the Gospels (London, 1963)
17: R. H. Fuller, Interpreting the Miracles (London, 1963), pp. 26f.
The contrast in views is decisive for all of theology and Christian living.

This decision and the priority of the resurrection must be our focus, for, it will always be possible to tease out strands of text and point to real or imagined difficulties, provoking doubts and maybe dismissals without sober consideration of the key warrant for the Christian Faith. 

Indeed, there is a major wave of current skepticism that does just that. 

But, to try to reject a cumulative case by pointing to the slenderness or weakness of the individual fibre may well fail to see the cumulative effect of the core warranting case; i.e. it commits the fallacy of composition.

For instance, sometimes it is objected that the Christian faith is like a set of buckets with holes in them, so one cannot carry water. 

But, there is a reply: if we stack the buckets so one stops the hole in the next, the resulting composite bucket will often be serviceable to carry water. 

The key lesson: a whole is often stronger than the individual part, as it takes advantage of how partly strong, partly weak parts can work together to build on strengths, compensate for weaknesses and counter threats.

So, if we are to assess the warrant for Christianity, we must turn away from trying to answer a raft of real or imagined difficulties one by one -- with the farm being bet on each throw of the die, and we must turn instead to a sounder approach: assessing the cumulative strength of the core warrant for the Christian faith.

Namely, the record and reality of Jesus of Nazareth as the scripturally prophesied, crucified, risen Messiah, Saviour and Lord. Once this is firmly established, it puts all difficulties -- and, by the very nature of the case, there will inevitably be many such -- in proper perspective. 

For instance, as a useful 101, let us watch Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ, full- length- in- one- clip version:

Case for Christ - L. Strobel from Rufino Magiting on Vimeo.


Let us next remind ourselves from Unit 1, of how Australian scholar Paul Barnett, in his Is the New Testament History?, provides an excellent place to start building our answer. He does so by giving us a summing up of the composite, consensus view of early non-Christian sources from late C1 to early C2, on the roots of the Christian faith and its characteristics:
On the basis of . . . non-Christian sources [i.e. Tacitus (Annals, on the fire in Rome, AD 64; written ~ AD 115), Rabbi Eliezer (~ 90's AD; cited J. Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth (London: Collier-Macmillan, 1929), p. 34), Pliny (Letters to Trajan from Bithynia, ~ AD 112), Josephus (Antiquities, ~ 90's)] it is possible to draw the following conclusions:
1: Jesus Christ was executed (by crucifixion?) in Judaea during the period where Tiberius was Emperor (AD 14 - 37) and Pontius Pilate was Governor (AD 26 - 36). [Tacitus]

2: The movement spread from Judaea to Rome. [Tacitus]

3: Jesus claimed to be God and that he would depart and return. [Eliezer]

4: His followers worshipped him as (a) god. [Pliny]

5: He was called "the Christ." [Josephus]

6: His followers were called "Christians." [Tacitus, Pliny]

7: They were numerous in Bithynia and Rome [Tacitus, Pliny]

8: It was a world-wide movement. [Eliezer]

9: His brother was James. [Josephus]
[Is the New Testament History? (London, Hodder, 1987), pp. 30 - 31.]
The pattern in these sources, as we already saw, is instantly familiar. 

That external support -- as we already saw, but need to remind ourselves of -- should not be surprising, given that (as Barnett goes on to observe, pp. 37 - 41) in the very first cluster of writing sub-apostolic church fathers -- Clement of Rome [c. AD 96], Ignatius [c. 108] and Polycarp [c. 110], 25 of the 27 books in the New Testament are cited or alluded to, as authentic and authoritative scripture. [Only the two rather brief works, 2 Jn and Jude, are not cited or alluded to.]  In short, the onward textual history of the NT documents begins in the 90's AD, i.e. within living memory of the Apostles, and it continues in an unbroken chain of custody to the origin of printing. 

Fundamentally, we are dealing with prime source documents, coming from a reasonable chain of custody. That is, the NT documents are fair on the face and deserve to be respected as prime source documents. Moreover, from the days of Sir William Ramsey on, a Century and more past now, the NT documents have received repeated, considerable (and sometimes, unexpected) archaeological confirmation.

Also, we must not forget how the earliest generally accepted fragment (the Rylands Papyrus, P52,  c. 125 AD with John 18:31 - 33 and 37 - 38) dates to the edge of the first century, in a codex -- roughly, the modern book form -- showing that this was already being treated as a serious work, several hundred miles form where it was likely written, in Ephesus:

We may also note the wider chain of custody, courtesy McDowell & Wilson (1993):

This chain of custody and independent external support decisively undercut the remaining fringe of radical scholars and skeptical popular writers who want to date these works to ~ 100 - 160 AD.  In sum, the overwhelming evidence is that the NT documents come from the First Century, from excellent chain of custody (with significant archaeological and historical/literary suport and coroborration), and trace to the first generation circle of key witnesses and disciples of Jesus; on any fair reading, they are highly credible primary source documents. 

So, if we lay hyper- skepticism driven by anti- supernatural prejudices aside, there is no good reason to doubt that the NT documents, considered as a body, are primary and highly trustworthy sources, datable to the lifetime of eyewitnesses to the events and teachings recounted. Thus, it is a fair conclusion to hold that they are authentically rooted in and accurately reflect the core testimony, message, teachings and general history of the C1 church.

But, such anti-supernaturalism is indeed a material issue.  

To cogently address it on the street, the key question is the central miracle reported in the NT, the resurrection of Jesus, which we have already seen in Unit 1, was credibly prophesied c. 700 BC in Isa 53.  

This miracle has been the focus of considerable and quite harsh scrutiny over the past several centuries, but (as we already saw) the following twelve "minimal facts"  are considered firmly established by the majority or in some cases even nearly all NT scholars:
1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. He was buried.
3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
4. The tomb was empty (the most contested).
5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus (the most important proof).
6. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.
7. The resurrection was the central message.
8. They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem.
9. The Church was born and grew.
10. Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship.
11. James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family skeptic).
12. Paul was converted to the faith (Paul was an outsider skeptic). [Cf. Habermas' paper here and a broader more popular discussion here.]
That means that if you wish to dispute these, the burden of warrant is on you. That means the real discussion needs to be on what best explains these strongly warranted facts. Where, we also know that the classic "alternative" skeptical explanations pioneered by the deists and others 300 years ago,  have deservedly fallen by the wayside, and the now favoured "spiritual body" visions fares but little better against the credible facts of the text.  


We can tabulate, as was just linked:

Match to four major credible facts regarding Jesus of Nazareth & his Passion
Overall score/20
Died by crucifixion
(under Pontius Pilate) at
c 30 AD
Was buried, tomb was found empty
Appeared to multiple disciples,
many of whom proclaimed
& suffered for their
Appeared to key
objectors who then became church leaders: James & Paul
Bodily Resurrection
Wrong tomb
Stolen body/fraud
Quran 4:155 -6: "They did not slay him, neither crucified him." 1 1 1 1 4
 "Jesus never existed" 1 1 1 1 4
 "Christianity as we know it was cooked up by Constantine and  others at Nicea, who censored/ distorted the original record" 1 1 1 1 4
"What we have today is 'Paulianity,' not the original teachings of Jesus and his disciples" 2 1 1 2 6
Christianity -- including the resurrection --  is a gradually emerging legend based on a real figure
Complete legend/pagan copycat (Greek, Persian, Egyptian, etc)
(I have given my scores above, based on reasoning that should be fairly obvious. As an exercise you may want to come up with your own scores on a 5 - 1 scale: 5 = v. good/ 4 = good/ 3 = fair/ 2 = poor/ 1 = v. poor, with explanations. Try out blends of the common skeptical theories to see how they would fare.)
In short, on inference to best explanation, once the tomb was evidently empty that first Easter morning [real, the "objection" the NT records, the stolen body talking point, pivots on the agreed fact of the missing body], something has to reasonably explain -- 
  • the missing corpse and the empty tomb, 
  • the convincing appearances to the disciples [altogether over 500], 
  • those to the circle of women,
  • that to his family [who were previously skeptical to the point of fearing their eldest brother insane], and 
  • that to Paul in his earlier career of arch-persecutor, as well as 
  • the inability of the Jewish and Roman authorities to produce convincing evidence to scotch reports of a risen messiah,
. . . and it has to do so without undue strain or obvious anti-supernaturalist bias that leads to accepting what would otherwise be preposterous. 

In this, we should recall again that as ordinary men and women of typical common sense rationality, the fishermen, farmers, house-wives and tax collectors in Jesus' circle of followers would be able to tell a live man from a violently dead one, and they could also tell which of two events came first.

It took no miracle to see, converse and even eat supper with Jesus. Nor did it take a miracle to see him crucified, speared to ensure death, taken down and buried in the famed borrowed rich Sanhedrinist's tomb -- unlikely to be recounted unless true! -- then sealed therein and guarded.

No, we cannot reasonably claim that what was experienced in itself was "extraordinary." The talking point "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," does not wash. Eating supper with a longstanding friend is extraordinary? Come on.

The miracle lies, rather in the implications of the timeline sequence: Jesus was crucified and buried first, then after that, he reportedly met, spoke to and ate supper with his disciples on the following Sunday evening and on the Sunday evening after that too. In this last event, he reportedly invited Thomas the doubter to insert his hands into the fearsome, but now evidently powerless wounds.

So, on the credible minimal facts, either the core witnesses were utterly misled by an inexplicable delusion, or they were just what they understood themselves to be -- witnesses of the truth. 

So, we are right back to the testimony of men who risked and then ultimately peacefully laid their lives down on the conviction that they were eyewitnesses. They surrendered their lives rather than deny what they personally knew was true from having lived through it.

So, we are back to the full impact of the gospel.

As Peter preached in the very first Christian sermon:
Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know – 23 this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles.  But God raised him up, having released him from the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held in its power . . . .
"32 This Jesus God raised up, and we are all witnesses of it.  33 So then, exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he has poured out what you both see and hear . . . . 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” [NET]

And, if the apostles and those with them in the core circle of 500 witnesses were indeed witnesses of the truth, the millions ever since who testify to having met God in the face of the risen Christ are also witnesses of the truth.

A truth that potentially has revolutionary, transforming impact for us, our lives, communities and world. 

A truth that demands our sincere response of repentance and trust in God through the crucified, but now risen Christ, and guided by the scriptures that authentically record that truth, starting with the Old Testament that he so highly regarded, which sets the context for Messiah, and prophesies his coming. Then also, continuing through the New Testament that reliably reports his life, teachings, passion, death as Saviour, and triumphant resurrection as Living Lord who shall return as Judge, but even now intercedes for us before the Throne of Grace.

Indeed, let us hear and heed the final counsel of the Apostle Paul to his son in the faith, Timothy, even as he faced imminent death at the hands of Nero for his bold witness to Christ:

 2 Tim 3:12 . . . all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom  you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God  may be competent, equipped for every good work. 
2 Tim 4: 1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound  teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

 6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith . . .  [ESV]
So, it is not just theism that has a good bedrock core warrant, but confident Judaeo-Christian, Scripture-respecting theism. A warrant that can be held on to even when one faces difficulties with or is even perplexed by particular issues, concerns, challenges or texts.

It is in that spirit, and with that confidence that we may now freely proceed.

Christian discipleship and cultural transformation

After his resurrection, Jesus commissioned the church:

Matt 28:16 . . .  the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain Jesus had designated.  17 When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [NET]
Paul amplifies this, giving it operational form, in Eph 4:
Eph 4:10 [Jesus], the very one who descended, is also the one who ascended above all the heavens, in order to fill all things.
11 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,  12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ,  13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God – a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.
14 So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes.  15 But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head.  16 From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love. 

17 So I say this, and insist in the Lord, that you no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.   18 They are darkened in their understanding, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts.  19 Because they are callous, they have given themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

20 But you did not learn about Christ like this, 21 if indeed you heard about him and were taught in him, just as the truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires,  23 to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth. [NET]
This is a clear call for individual, community and cultural transformation through repentance, renewal, discipleship and godly service through the truth in love.  
(NB: Cf. downloadable slideshow of the 2002 JTS-CGST Public Ethics Lecture. Bearing in mind, as well, the issue that -- absent a firm ethical foundation for balanced rights, freedoms and responsibilities in community -- democratic majority rule all too easily deteriorates into "three wolves and two sheep taking a vote on what's for lunch," the sort of stakeholder-based participative, ethically rooted sustainability strategies and approaches here, and the sort of more specific strategic planning and executing approaches, techniques and tools here on, will also be helpful.)
In that work of discipleship, reformation and God-blessed transformation, Jesus has given gifted leaders to the church to equip its members to do the works of loving and truthful service that help to fill all things [παντων, panton, from πᾶς pas (pas`) -- 1. all, any, every, the whole] with his grace, blessing and glory. Thus, through the church and the Spirit-enabled gifted service of all its members, the whole community and culture is filled with Christ, even as the waves advancing and retreating on a beach gradually (and almost invisibly but inexorably) march upwards to high tide:

In a simplified summary of how such an agenda intersects with the life of a community, we may now start from another look at the generic form of  Lance Wallnau's seven mountains vision/ strategic analysis tool or "map" of the cultural high ground that tends to shape the life of a community; which in turn apparently traces to a c. 1975 analysis/vision by Bill Bright, Loren Cunningham and Francis Schaeffer:

A pause to reflect on communities we know and civilisations across the world over the ages will readily show that this mapping, analysis and planning tool is likely to be useful, helping us to understand the complexity of a culture and what shapes its trends. Where, too, let us recall and extend a pair of "equations" given above, in light of the lessons of AC 27:



Hence, we see the challenge of timely, responsible change through the action of critical mass:

This challenge, also being informed by an assessment of how societies in environments facing trends and shocks tend to make collective decisions (and notice the role of information, thus media, education and social networks of interaction):

(Now, governmental issues are bound to come up, so I point to a separate discussion of nationhood and government under God, here. This, here, on media issues, will also be helpful. A short briefing on critical thinking, here, may help also.)

Where, too, we may find it convenient to consider an explicit SWOT analysis based framework for decision making that fosters strategic change. And yes, this mapping exercise can be done up as a wall chart and used with stakeholder groups (using strips of bristol board that can be taped up) to do a live strategic change assessment:

Also, given the possibility of damaging crises, we may ponder the issue of crisis response and disaster risk management, AKA what happens when you "go over the cliff":

 Or, we may look at it in a closed circle:

The sad lesson of history, though, is that we tend to stubbornly carry on with business as usual, until we go over the cliff. Often, because, dominant power factions want to keep up their power coalition and as we all fear change especially, unpopular or unwelcome change):

That's what we are up against.

No wonder the apostle Paul (a few years after the needless shipwreck of Acts 27) highlights a counter-culture strategy in Eph 4: 17 - 24:

 Eph 4:17 So this I say, and solemnly affirm together with the Lord [as in His presence], that you must no longer live as the [unbelieving] Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds [and in the foolishness and emptiness of their souls], 18 for their [moral] understanding is darkened and their reasoning is clouded; [they are] alienated and self-banished from the life of God [with no share in it; this is] because of the [willful] ignorance and spiritual blindness that is [deep-seated] within them, because of the hardness and insensitivity of their heart.

19 And they, [the ungodly in their spiritual apathy], having become callous and unfeeling, have given themselves over [as prey] to unbridled sensuality, eagerly craving the practice of every kind of impurity [that their desires may demand].

20 But you did not learn Christ in this way! 21 If in fact you have [really] heard Him and have been taught by Him, just as truth is in Jesus [revealed in His life and personified in Him], 22 that, regarding your previous way of life, you put off your old self [completely discard your former nature], which is being corrupted through deceitful desires, 23 and be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], 24 and put on the new self [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image, [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation]. [AMP]
 Where, we may also see a vision of ambassadorship of the kingdom (thus the view that a mature church is an embassy of the Kingdom of God [= a base for effective ambassadorship] amidst the kingdoms and communities of man):
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life]. 

18 But all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ [making us acceptable to Him] and gave us the ministry of reconciliation [so that by our example we might bring others to Him], 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting people’s sins against them [but canceling them]. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation [that is, restoration to favor with God].
20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us; we [as Christ’s representatives] plead with you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God. 

  21 He made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God [that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship with Him by His gracious lovingkindness]. [AMP]
 In this context, I find that the early history of the church in Antioch -- one of the five great historic, apostolically founded patriarchates of the church -- is an example and challenge:

Where are we on this timeline? 

What can/should we be doing about it? (Cf. a worksheet here and the MVAT Kit guidebook here. Also, look at this briefing on issues and challenges C1 - 21.) 

From this, we can also ponder our missionary mandate and the discipleship cycle with fresh insights:


And also where balanced spiritual transformation is pivotal:

Now, then, in light of the just above, let us sharpen our mapping focus . . . yes, by looking at a modified and specifically Christian discipleship agenda based version of the seven mountains vision (without thereby endorsing all that may be said in that connexion by various people; some of whom have clearly lost balance or, sadly, may have lost their way). 

Where, I find that the four R's of discipleship and reformation provide a key insight:

We can picture this cumulative impact simply:

In short, mounting waves of sound, strong revival tend to make a cumulative difference in a community, nation, civilisation. Which, is glorified common sense.

A glance at the adoption wave phenomenon; familiar from strategic marketing's product life cycle model (as well as associated product-market strategies),  can help us deepen the simple picture:

 The implied strategy alternatives can of course apply to Missionary strategies; something we will not explore in detail here.

However, a more relevant issue is the level of refusals relative to the ideal potential market adoption. Here, we ask, [a] what is it that leads people to refuse the call to discipleship? And, [b] how does the incidence of such refusal move across time?

(These are highly instructive questions. Another point, is to note that [c] we can have fad markets that surge rapidly then fall away almost as fast; suggesting that[d]  if there is not an enduring , multi-generational life transformational process of discipleship as a "standard" part of our ministry in a given community, the Christian faith can in fact be marginalised or even effectively driven out of the community.)

The resistance/refusal phenomenon also raises a key facet of spiritual warfare, the battle for the mind:

 Notice, especially, "every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God."

Clearly, cultural high ground can be held by hostile forces and such will lead to a high refusal rate to the call of the gospel and discipleship.

Accordingly, the power of deception used by such demonically influenced centres of influence and power has to be broken.

Where, also, we now have to reckon with 2,000 years of history, including much that was indefensible and which can understandably contribute to polarisation or even to hostility and suspicion. Such a challenge may require considerable thought and careful balance in our actions, but always the central issue pivots on the well-warranted truth of the gospel and the duty we all have to respond appropriately to that truth.

For, there is never an excuse to lock out and turn our backs on truth.

In all of this, we thus find a clear ethical and strategic guideline from the pen of Paul:
2 Cor 4:1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, just as we received mercy [from God, granting us salvation, opportunities, and blessings], we do not get discouraged nor lose our motivation. But we have renounced the disgraceful things hidden because of shame; not walking in trickery or adulterating the word of God, but by stating the truth [openly and plainly], we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. [AMP]

That is our yardstick.

Thus, too, we can further see the relevance of the now familiar seven mountains mapping model, in helping us understand how to foster adoption waves of discipleship, and in helping us to soundly and systematically address mutually reinforcing centres of resistance and refusal:

Where, yes, the issue of a community hell-bent on a march of folly over a cliff and needing to turn back before it is too late also becomes even more relevant:

And so, let us heed what Jesus warned of in no uncertain terms:

 Accordingly, let us earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all time delivered to us, i.e. for the gospel. Likewise, we must prepare ourselves to answer those who ask us sincere questions as to the reason/ warrant for the hope that we have.

Just so, we must take time to live by and systematically teach the transformational truth of the gospel, patiently instructing those who come to Christ in discipleship, transformed lifestyle and service.

We must be prepared to minister healing to hurts of the soul, leading to rescue from ruinous, addictive, enslaving, demonically dominated habits and patterns of life; so that people may adhere to Christ and be blessed through that adherence.

As the above shows, cumulatively, that will affect communities and nations for the good.

And, so, to put historical flesh on the bones of such an analysis we can now look at a map of how Christendom developed, first primarily in urbanised centres and their neighbouring supportive hinterlands around the Mediterranean from 30 - 300, then spreading continent wide after 300 as missionaries spread out, up to the limits of desert, mountain and ocean barriers. It would then take global breakout by sea to carry the gospel to the world as a whole.

So, we observe:

Of course, we see from the Acts, that the Apostles focussed on key strategic urban centres, and that the gospel then spread out from such pivotal embassies of the Kingdom in waves of onward work. The spreading out from Jerusalem to Judaea and beyond, then also from Antioch and also from Ephesus are obvious cases in point that can be traced in the NT text.

The above map then shows that this pattern continued for 300 years, and that as the Empire first tolerated then adopted the Faith from 313 - 325 on, the faith accelerated its growth across entire regions; though, quality was significantly lower, as Augustine and others complained of. His discussion in City of God then makes interesting reading on how the gospel addressed hostile centres of influence in that time, c 400 AD.  So does his own life story, as raised by a Christian Mother (Monica), going out and wandering all over the world of ideas and sinful lifestyles, then coming home and becoming the greatest of the Latin church fathers.

Then, by the time the Western Empire had collapsed (conventionally, 476 AD), the church was strong enough to sustain momentum from its own strength as a cultural institution.

However, we see again that over the centuries major quality of discipleship questions and some ill advised compromises led to the very mixed, wheat and tares character of Christendom.

(Which, we can roughly define from our perspective as Western Civilisation in the eras when it self-identified as a Christian civilisation, arising from the founding era of the Christian church. With, the further thought that in the end, once planted the wheat are still there . . . paradoxically, it is to preserve the wheat that the tares are not plucked out prematurely. Yes, in seemingly the worst of times the wheat is still there, still growing towards a good harvest as a remnant and counter-culture that preserves the godly heritage of the gospel; even when tares seem to prevail. This points to a delicate balance: in a wheat- and- tares world, perfect justice in a society is impossible so reforms can only go so far as the hardness of hearts, legitimate concerns over freedom, balance of power and pattern of benefits and harm permit, so there will always be evils that can only be regulated and ameliorated. The failure of Constitutional prohibition of even so obvious an evil as alcohol in the US a century ago now, which greatly strengthened organised crime, serves as a cautionary tale. One might add, that at almost any time, it will seem to be an evil day as "if it bleeds, it leads." It seems, it is only in retrospect that the value and transforming impacts of positive developments become truly apparent. And no, roar, revel, riot and rage as they might the tares will not prevail.)

Thus, we come to the onward issues of times of major reformation and the further one of the globalisation of the mission of the church once the Spanish and Portuguese pioneered the great global seaborne trade routes starting with the voyages of Columbus and da Gama.

Which, in turn, brings us to the Christianisation of the Caribbean and our own emerging responsibility under the global mission of the church.

Where, c. 2011, the Pew research centre provides a suggestive map, one where the 10/40 window is obvious and the northern dechristianisation trend can be discerned (though the resurgence of Russia and Eastern Europe, post cold war are also evident):

Pew: Global distribution of "Christian" adherents, by country. Notice, the surprisingly low fraction for Jamaica.
We may debate the numbers but the general pattern is indicative.

Therefore, we can readily see many key lessons from even this sketched out history, and especially, our need to address the quality of discipleship and reformation concerns. We simply must step up the quality of our work.

In all of this, we can see how the 4R pattern can also be specifically tied to the biblical, gospel foundations of discipleship, with Jesus as Foundational Cornerstone:

 Thus, we can see how the gospel-equipped, Spirit enabled church is the rising tide of history. In Titus 2:11 - 14, the apostle therefore adds:
Titus 2:11 . . .  the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. 12 It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good.
The rest of this course consequently  seeks to help build us up for just that task, by strengthening our understanding of the core foundations of our faith. 

As a part of that process of strengthening our understanding, it is convenient to look back a generation, to the key pioneering (albeit somewhat controversial and not without errors) thought and work of Francis Schaeffer, as he surveyed the intersection of the Christian faith and western culture over the past millennium, in light of the foundational thinking we can find in Paul on Mars Hill and in the Epistle to the Romans.

It is helpful to start by examining Paul's call to holiness and to truth in Eph 4:17 - 24:

 Eph 4:17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!- 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,5  which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Here, we see a dynamic, whereby it is possible to turn away from God and become en-darkened in understanding and benumbed in conscience because we harden our hearts and block our minds to the accessible, knowable truth about God. Rom 1:18 - 23 elaborates, in the context of what became known as natural theology:
 Rom 1:18 . . . the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things [we may safely add: whether in the name of the old pagan religions or "science" or whatever else makes but little difference to the result] . . . .

 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done . . . .

32 Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
The ugly picture just painted is one in which we can see that if we are open-minded and diligent, we can see from nature, and from our hearts, minds and consciences, enough to point us to God; as was outlined above in this unit.

However, it is possible to willfully suppress that knowledge, by insisting on substituting a different start-point for what we are willing to accept as knowledge, and resisting the force of the actual evidence.  If we do so, God will not stop us as our hardened hearts, benumbed consciences and endarkened understandings lead us ever further astray in the teeth of what we know or should know.  Chaos in lives, families and communities -- needless shipwreck --  is the predictable consequence.

The gospel truth-challenge to man in rebellious community

But, one day, God will hold us to account.

Now, Schaeffer was based in Continental Europe across the 1950′s – 70′s as an orthodox, evangelical missionary to whom the students gasping for intellectual coherence in a sea of existentialist despair, came. Came, in numbers amounting to a movement. To the point, where the village he was based in made it into at least one popular song.

Fundamentally, then, Romans 1 rooted critical analysis of worldviews and their cultural implications was what Schaeffer was doing, and doing sufficiently well that when he passed away from cancer in 1984, major news magazines noted on his life work with a modicum of respect. 

A clip is worth pondering:


He was working in an atmosphere dominated by the great lights of learning in Europe who were building an existentialist worldview out of the wreckage of two world wars and the collapse of the academy as a leader in enlightenment (and under the distant looming shadow of the heirs of Marx and Lenin), given the dark age the horrible wars demonstrated beyond all doubt.

Don’t forget, one of these leading lights -- Jaspers -- used to tell his students that the first thing is to make sure you don’t commit suicide. And, the description of a man who came to Schaeffer, clinging to the fading memory of a “final experience” as an anchor for a sense of being in contact with something that can be seen as objective reality, as a drowning man clutches a straw, is iconic of his underlying compassion.

That should be respected, and we should reckon with Schaeffer’s successes as well as his limitations; whether or not we in the end agree with him on all or even most points.

 So, let's adapt his famous Line of Despair diagram, to set up a timeline- based analytical framework; as that allows us to see the broad flow of thought and its consequences:

Now of course there will inevitably be a few limitations to such a sweeping analysis, and Schaeffer has made a couple of errors, especially on Thomas Aquinas: the latter actually did accept that the Fall affects will and mind (cf. e.g. ST I Q 85, Art, 3), and in his revised edition of Escape from Reason, Schaeffer more correctly located the cleavage between nature and grace and faith and reason etc. to those who followed. We should also recognise that Aquinas was responding to the Averroists, Islamic and Christian, who are seen by many as the real pioneers of the sort of split worldview that we are examining.
Averroes (i.e. Ibn Rushd), an Islamic interpreter of Aristotle, had then been recently translated into Latin, and this helped put the issues posed by Aristotle on centre stage in the University of Paris, where both Aquinas and Siger of Brabant taught. Brabant seems to have taught Aristotle in light of Averroes, without seeking a full reconciliation with Christian thought, and was opposed by Aquinas.  Sadly, the matter came up for ecclesiastical interventions in 1270 and -- shortly after Aquinas' death-- in 1277, forced Brabant to lose his academic position.

After Aquinas's time [1225 - 1274], the controversial William of Ockham (or, Occam) [c. 1285 - c. 1347] -- who (by papal intervention) also lost his academic position over controversies -- is seen as carrying forward the idea that "only faith gives us access to theological truths. The ways of God are not open to reason, for God has freely chosen to create a world and establish a way of salvation within it apart from any necessary laws that human logic or rationality can uncover." [Dale T. Irvin & Scott W. Sunquist. History of World Christian Movement Volume I: Earliest Christianity to 1453, p. 434.] 

He is also on record: Sent. I, dist. 30, q. 1: “For nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident (literally, known through itself) or known by experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture.” This last is sufficiently close to Aquinas' statements in  ST, I Q 1, etc., that it easily invites misreading Aquinas' plain intent to bring reason under the authority of scripture as authentic revelation. Here is the key statement:
[Aquinas, ST, I, Q 1, art 1:] It was necessary for man’s salvation that there should be a knowledge revealed by God besides philosophical science built up by human reason. Firstly, indeed, because man is directed to God, as to an end that surpasses the grasp of his reason“The eye hath not seen, O God, besides Thee, what things Thou hast prepared for them that wait for Thee” (Isa. 66:4). But the end must first be known by men who are to direct their thoughts and actions to the end. Hence it was necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths which exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation . . .

Notwithstanding such balancing points, it is worth pondering the concern that by not putting in as a main stress the emphasis on Paul's corrective to the willful blindness "then and there," Aquinas' inadvertent lack of balanced emphasis in key introductory texts (e.g. ST, I Q 1) unintentionally opened a door for others to miss the point that willfully rebellious man has an endarkened mind that hinders him from seeing or acknowledging the compelling force of the signs in the world around him, and in his own heart, conscience and mind within.  

It would also have been helpful for Aquinas to note briefly "then and there" on the authenticity and authentication of the Scriptures as trustworthy and authoritative revelation; in light of Peter's observations in 2 Pet 1:13 - 21 & 3:1 - 18 on how we are to live by the authentic revelatory word we have, and so also how we must therefore recognise, resist, expose and correct misleading, mockingly skeptical and dismissive rhetoric. This, as, we are not following clever fables, but rather truthful and credible eyewitness based reports further undergirded by the powerfully fulfilled centuries-old scriptural prophecies of Him who holds the future and so can accurately predict it. [Cf. Isa 41:21 - 24.]

Moreover, the scriptures -- and more specifically the God who stands behind them -- also significantly work by experiential self-authentication. That is, through the scriptures, across the ages, literally millions have come to know God in life- transforming, satisfying ways. This, in the face of Jesus through the fulfilled  promises of the gospel. Precisely as Peter points out in 2 Pet 1:2 - 4 (and as Locke cited in the Greek in his Introduction to his Essay on Human Understanding, as was already quoted above):
2 Pet 1:2May grace (God's favor) and peace (which is [a]perfect well-being, all necessary good, all spiritual prosperity, and [b]freedom from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts) be multiplied to you in [the full, personal, [c]precise, and correct] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
    3For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [[d]full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue).
    4By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature. [AMP]

This is also the context of Jesus' definition of the "eternal life" discussed in John 3:16, in John 17:3:
Jn 17:3And this is eternal life: [it means] to know (to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with, and understand) You, the only true and real God, and [likewise] to know Him, Jesus [as the] Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah), Whom You have sent.
One may indeed choose to reject and dismiss such a body of life experience and testimony.

But, that comes at a stiffer cost than one may wish to pay, for then it raises the question of the human mind being so delusional that it would drastically undermine the credibility of all knowledge-claims, especially where we claim to know other persons in relationships (e.g. we only interact with bodies, we infer that there is a person behind the body).  So, it should be no surprise to see that many of the millions transformed through living encounter with God in the face of Christ will confidently report that they know God as personally as they know their mothers. As far as such are concerned, the man with a living experience of relationship is under no obligation to concede his living reality to the man who approaches him armed with skeptical, dismissive talking points.

Indeed, they would be inclined to conclude that the skeptical dismissive points are similar to how an imaginary, skeptical blind man might doubt the reality of light, which he cannot see. We would pity such a man, instead of desperately trying to prove the reality of our experience to him.

This is the context for Clark Pinnock's Scripture Principle concept:
Why, in the last analysis, do Christian people believe the Bible is God’s Word? Not because they have studied up on Christian evidences and apologetics, however useful these may prove to some. Christians believe the Bible because it has been able to do for them exactly as Paul promised it would [i.e. in 2 Tim 3:13 – 17]: introduce them to a saving and transforming knowledge of Christ. Reasons for faith and answers to perplexing difficulties in the text, therefore, are supportive but not constitutive of faith in God and his Word. Faith rests ultimately, not on in human wisdom, but in a demonstration of the Spirit and power. [An allusion to 1 Cor 2:1 - 5.]

[The Scripture Principle, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1985), p. xix. Cf here, C S Lewis' discussion of Lucy Pevensie in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when she returns from Narnia the first time, only to be doubted by her elder siblings, here.]
In any case, it should be a quite useful exercise to refer to Schaeffer's book/video series How Should We then Live? (Amazon DVD, here. Book, here.)

Similarly, we need to ponder where the pattern of willfully turning our backs on the God who is evident in his handiwork in our world and who has put the candle of conscience within to speak to us can end up. Schaeffer and Koop, responding to the rise of abortion on demand in the USA, did a book and video, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?

As Schaeffer was so fond of remarking, ideas have consequences, and we must think about why we are now thinking as we increasingly are, in light of those consequences.

In steps of thought:

a --> The root soil of the Christian faith is the Hebraic tradition and covenant with God, in light of the often prophesied promise of Messiah; so much so that in Romans, Paul puts it this way:
Rom 11: 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root  of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. [ESV]
 b -->  But, at the same time, the Christian faith is not simply an extension of Judaism, it is a recognised fulfillment of a promise of the OT, as  we can see from the very first general Church Council, in Jerusalem in AD 48 or 49, when Paul and Barnabas described their experiences on their first Missionary journey:
 Ac 15:12 . . . all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon [i.e. Peter, cf. vv 7 - 11] has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, 
      16 ​​​​​​​​“‘After this I will return,         and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;         I will rebuild its ruins,          and I will restore it,       17 ​​​​​​​​that the remnant  of mankind may seek the Lord,         and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,          says the Lord, who makes these things     18 known from of old.’  
The Fertile Crescent (HT: Ancient History Enc)
c --> In that context, Paul is a pivotal figure. A Jewish Rabbi and Pharisee of the Pharisees, from Tarsus, a Greek-speaking centre of Learning and a Roman Citizen, he literally  embodied the Christian integration -- "synthesis" -- of the heritage of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome (and so, too that of the Nile and Tigris-Euphrates valley civilisations of the Fertile Crescent behind them) that was the foundation of Western Culture as we know it. Indeed, he (as apostle to the nations) stands out as a chief example of how the missionary call to discipleship [which requires us to "teach . . . the nations" the gospel of Christ, with its integral ethical teachings -- thus, calling "all men everywhere" to repent],  naturally leads to reformation and God-blessed transformation under Christ through the 4R's pattern. This, has now extended . . . warts and all . . . through 2,000 years of history. So, as a thought-provoker, let us now pause and ponder a somewhat idealised summary clip that echoes Schaeffer's thought and highlights the decisive American founding as the first modern republic of democratic ("We, the People . . .") character:
In The Roots of American Order, first published in 1974, Russell Kirk provides a convincing answer: America is not only the land of the free and the home of the brave but a place of ordered [--> though always imperfect!] liberty [under law], which made its freedom and prosperity possible. Using the device of examining five cities—Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and Philadelphia—Kirk traces the roots of American order to long-standing traditions in human history.

First came the Hebrews, who recognized “a purposeful moral existence under God.” For the prophets, the hill-town of Jerusalem was the eternal city for salvation. Next came the Greeks who strengthened the roots with their philosophical and political self-awareness. Athens was where Western philosophy was born, and from it came the Western views of science and the conviction that all areas of knowledge are within the ability of the mind of men. There followed the Romans, with their emphasis on law and social awareness. Rome was the seat of a great empire, and its political administration and stability echoed down the centuries. The roots of these cities were intertwined “with the Christian understanding of human duties and human hopes” and were joined by medieval custom, learning, and valor.

The roots of order were then enriched by two great political experiments in law and liberty centered in London and Philadelphia. But they did not come to pass overnight. Indeed, the British contribution was made possible by six-and-a-half centuries of political experimentation from the Magna Carta in 1215 through the Glorious Revolution of 1689.

The first part of the British experiment took place during what are so often called, erroneously, the Dark Ages. In The Roots of American Order, Kirk lists the contributions of the Middle Ages: our system of common law, the essentials of representative government, our language, our social patterns, and the foundation of our modern economy. Too often forgotten today, they illustrate Kirk’s view that political order reflects custom, mores, and belief [--> i.e. that culture leads politics . . . hence, one utility of the "7M" culture mapping model].

King John at the sealing of
Magna Carta, Runnymede on
the Thames, June 15, 1215 (HT: Royal Mint)
According to the French political philosopher Montesquieu, the only “grand change in the art of government” since Aristotle was representative government. And its first sign was the Great Charter, the Magna Carta, which the English barons extracted from a reluctant King John. Its lasting principle is simple and yet profound: The law is supreme and must be obeyed by all, even the King.
INSERT: Let us clip and annotate a key part of The Great Charter of the Liberties (1215) as written by Archbishop of Caterbury Samuel Langton and imposed at sword-point at Runnymede, i.e. points 39 and 40 in Blackstone's numbering:
"+ (39) No free man
[–> recognition of freedom, the further question is, who shall be free]
 shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions
[–> recognition of rights including property],
or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him
[–> policing power & the sword of state subordinated to justice. NB Rom 13: 3 - 5
For [civil] authorities are not a source of fear for [people of] good behavior, but for [those who do] evil. Do you want to be unafraid of authority? Do what is good and you will receive approval and commendation. For he is God’s servant to you for good. But if you do wrong, [you should] be afraid; for he does not carry the [executioner’s] sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an avenger who brings punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject [to civil authorities], not only to escape the punishment [that comes with wrongdoing], but also as a matter of principle [knowing what is right before God]. (Cf. here, on nationhood and government under God.)],
or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals
[ –> peers, i.e. trial by jury of peers]
or by the law of the land
[–> rule of law, not decree of tyrant or oligarch].
+ (40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice. 
[–> integrity, lawfulness and legitimacy of government rooted in the priority of right and justice]"

The Middle Ages was followed in swift and often chaotic succession by the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Counter-Reformation. Man proposed a new “humanism,” Kirk writes, driven by ego and enlightenment. [--> the echoes of Francis Schaeffer coming from a Catholic author, should be noted.]  Protestant reformers returned to the stern teaching of St. Augustine: man loving himself above everything can only be saved by the grace of God.

Out of the Protestant Ethic, Kirk says, came self-reliance, self-examination, endeavor in the secular world, and democracy. England, thanks to Richard Hooker and others, found a middle path between warring factions on the continent and passed it on to America: It consisted of law, liberty, and tolerance. But the passage was not an easy or swift one, in part because of the conflicting ideas of philosophers like Hobbes and Locke . . . . 

[Building on such influences] The [US] Declaration [of Independence, July 4, 1776] was a revolutionary document, Kirk says, a bill of particulars for going to war against George III, but it was not an open-ended justification of revolution under any and all circumstances. It was, in fact, primarily a political document, meant to set forth grievances against the King and the justifications for the political separation of the colonies. Among its 27 specific complaints, not one touched on social and economic conditions.

The Declaration was a conservative document in that it spoke of changing the “government” but not the “state.” As Kirk points out, “government” implied the ministers and other temporary possessors of political power while “society” meant the establishment civil social order. Still, the Declaration was a radical document in the sense that it reasserted a political autonomy rooted in the North American continent ever since the landings at Jamestown and Plymouth.

Eleven years later and now citizens of a new nation, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia met to revise the Articles of Confederation. They wound up producing a whole new constitution. It was a practical document, says Kirk, attempting to resolve the conflicting demands of freedom and order. Its composition demanded balance, firmness, and yet a willingness to yield because the delegates had to (a) uphold order but not reduce true liberty, (b) produce a reasonably strong national government while not reducing the states to mere provinces; and (c) provide for an effective chief executive who could not, however, become a king or dictator . . . 
Let us again pause, to dip into Sir Winston Churchill's introduction to his History of the English-Speaking Peoples, to augment Kirk's summary. We pick up at the point where hard-pressed Rome withdraws its once all-conquering, now protective Legions from Britain in a vain attempt to stave off impending collapse:
[W]e should be mistaken if we . . . supposed that the Roman occupation could be dismissed as an incident without consequence. It had given time for the Christian faith to plant itself. Far in the West, though severed from the world by the broad flood of barbarism [--> the Saxon invasion], there re-mained, sorely beset, but defended by its mountains [--> high ground . . . also, parallel to the mountain strongholds of Spain in the face of Islamic invasion from 711: centres of refuge, remnant stronghold, base for resurgence (cf. David and Adullam's Cave)], a tiny Christian realm [--> Wales, Churchill here also hints of Arthur etc]. British Christianity converted Ireland [--> St Patrick et al]. From Ireland the faith recrossed the seas to Scotland [--> Aidan et al]. Thus the new-comers [--> Saxons, Angles, Jutes etc] were enveloped in the old civilisation; while at Rome men remembered that Britain had been Christian once, and might be Christian again.

This island world was not wholly cut off from the mainland. The south-east at all events kept up a certain intercourse with its Frankish cousins across the straits [--> France], and hence came the Roman missionaries [--> under Augustine the less, cf. Bede et al]. They brought with them a new set of be-liefs [--> Roman as opposed to Celtic Christian traditions], which, with some brief, if obstinate, resistance here and there, were accepted with surprising readiness. They brought a new political order, a Church which was to have its own rulers, its own officers, its own assemblies, and make its own laws [--> Roman Canon Law], all of which had somehow or other to be fitted into the ancient customs of the English people.

They planted the seed of a great problem, the problem of Church and State, which will grow until a thousand years later it almost rives the founda-tions of both asunder. But all this lies in the future. What mat-tered at the moment was that with her conversion England be-came once more part of the Western World. Very soon English missionaries would be at work on the Continent; English pil-grims would be making their way across the Alps to see thewonders of Rome, among them English princes, who, their work in this world being done, desired that their bones shouldrest near the tomb of the Apostles.

Nor was this all, because the English people now have an institution which overrode all local distinctions of speech, or custom, or even sovereignty. [--> echoing the rest of Europe] Whatever dynastic quarrels might go on between the kingdoms, the Church was one and indivisi-ble: its rites are everywhere the same, its ministers are sacred. The Kingdom of Kent may lose its ancient primacy, Northum-bria make way for Mercia; but Canterbury and York remain [--> the two Arch Bishoprics].

The contrast is startling between the secular annals of these generations, with their meagre and tedious records of forays and slaughter, and the brilliant achievements of the English Church. The greatest scholar in Christendom was a Northum-brian monk. The most popular stylist was a West Saxon abbot.The Apostle of Germany was Boniface from Devon. The re-vival of learning in the Empire of Charlemagne was directed by Alcuin of York. [pp. xii - xiv.]
  And thus, through the window of the British Isles, we can catch a glimpse of the rise and significance of Christendom as a unifying force in Europe in the face of the post-Roman collapse.

Now, reaching the threshold of a renewal, starting with Charlemagne.

To pick just two further foundational cases [as there are those who will resist or dismiss a sweeping summary, demanding specific evidence], first, here is Alfred the Great, the Christian champion and King of the West Saxons and chief defender against the pagan Danish Vikings, as he begins his Book of Dooms, the historic start point of the British Common Law tradition.

Yes, the following are the actual very first words of Alfred and his Witans, the literal start-point of the Common Law:
Oklahoma, US 10 Commandments Monument
banned by the State Supreme Court in a 2015 decision
(They were obviously ignorant of Alfred's Dooms.)
The Lord was speaking these words to Moyse [= Moses], and thus quoth;
[Alfred's paraphrase of the Decalogue:]

I am the Lord thine God. I led thee out of the Egyptians’ lands, and of their bondage [–> slavery].

        1. Love thou not other strange gods ever me.
        2. Call not thou mine name in idleness, for that thou art not guiltless with me, if thou in idleness callest mine name.
        3. Mind that thou hallow the rest-day. Work you six days, and on the seventh rest you. For that in six days Christ wrought heavens and earth, seas, and all shapen things that in them are, and rested him on the seventh day: and for that the Lord hallowed it.
        4. Honour thine father and thine mother that the Lord gave thee : that thou be the longer living on earth.
        5. Slay thou not.
        6. Commit thou not adultery.
        7. Steal thou not.
        8. Say thou not leasing [= lying] witness.
        9. Wish not thou thy neighbour’s goods with untight.
        10. Work thou not to thyself golden gods or silvern. [–> scan not guaranteed 100%]
    11. These are the dooms that thou shalt set them . . . . [further rulings based on the Mosaic Law follow]

    49. These are dooms that the Almighty God himself was speaking to Moses, and bade him to hold, and, since the Lord’s onebegotten son, our God, that is, healing Christ, on middle earth came [–> “In the year of our Lord . . .” and now you know where “middle earth” comes from], he quoth that he came not these biddings to break nor to forbid, but with all good to eke them, and mild-heartedness and lowly-mindedness to learn [ –> teach, Alfred here alludes to and enfolds in the foundations, the Sermon on the Mount of Matt 5 – 7].

Then after his throes [sufferings], ere that his apostles were gone through all the earth to learn [teach], and then yet that they were together, many heathen nations they turned to God. While they all together were, they send erranddoers to Antioch and to Syria, Christ’s law to learn [teach]. When they understood that it speeded them not, then sent they an errand-writing to them. This is then that errand-writing that the apostles sent to Antioch, and to Syria, and to Cilicia, that are now from heathen nations turned to Christ.
[Acts 15 Church Council letter:]

The apostles and the elder brethren wish you health. And we make known to you, that we have heard that some of our fellows with our words to you have come, and bade you a heavier wise [way or law] to hold, than we bade them, and have too much misled you with manifold biddings, and your souls more perverted than they have righted. Then we assembled us about that, and to us all it seemed good, that we should send Paul and Barnabas, men that will their souls sell [give] for the Lord’s name. With them we sent Judas and Silas, that they to you the ilk [same] may say. To the Holy Ghost it was thought and to us, that we none burden on you should not set, over that to you was needful to hold, that is then, that ye forbear that ye devil-gilds [idols] worship, and taste blood and things strangled, and from fornication, and that ye will that other men do not to you, do ye not that to other men. [–> Yes, the Golden Rule of Moshe, of Yeshva and of Paulo, Apostolo Mart, is right there too.] . . .
Yes, this is the root of the Common Law tradition, and -- as just one relevant result -- those who object to the decalogue as an historic expression of the Common Law foundation of our judicial system are at best grossly ignorant.

Going to the other major Western legal tradition, Roman Law, the following is an excerpt from the beginning of Justinian's Institutes, the built-in textbook of law from the 50-volume synthesis of Roman Law, Corpus Juris Civilis:


Translated into English by J. B. Moyle, D.C.L. of Lincoln's Inn,
Barrister-at-Law, Fellow and Late Tutor of New College, Oxford
Fifth Edition (1913)


In the name of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The Emperor Caesar Flavius Justinian, conqueror of the Alamanni, the Goths, the Franks, the Germans, the Antes, the Alani, the Vandals, the Africans, pious, prosperous, renowned, victorious, and triumphant, ever august,

To the youth desirous of studying the law:

The imperial majesty should be armed with laws as well as glorified with arms, that there may be good government in times both of war and of peace, and the ruler of Rome may not only be victorious over his enemies, but may show himself as scrupulously regardful of justice as triumphant over his conquered foes.

With deepest application and forethought, and by the blessing of God, we have attained both of these objects . . .  All peoples . . . are ruled by laws which we have either enacted or arranged. Having removed every inconsistency from the sacred constitutions, hitherto inharmonious and confused, we extended our care to the immense volumes of the older jurisprudence; and, like sailors crossing the mid-ocean, by the favour of Heaven have now completed a work of which we once despaired. [--> the main synthesis, 50 volumes]

When this, with God's blessing, had been done, we called together that distinguished man Tribonian . . . and the illustrious Theophilus and Dorotheus . . .  and especially commissioned them to compose by our authority and advice a book of Institutes [--> this built-in textbook of law], whereby you may be enabled to learn your first lessons in law no longer from ancient fables, but to grasp them by the brilliant light of imperial learning, and that your ears and minds may receive nothing useless or incorrect, but only what holds good in actual fact . . .  .

After the completion therefore of the fifty books of the Digest or Pandects, in which all the earlier law has been collected by the aid of the said distinguished Tribonian and other illustrious and most able men, we directed the division of these same Institutes into four books, comprising the first elements of the whole science of law. In these the law previously obtaining has been briefly stated, as well as that which after becoming disused has been again brought to light by our imperial aid . . . .

Given at Constantinople the 21st day of November, in the third consulate of the Emperor Justinian, Father of his Country, ever august . . . .


Justice is the set and constant purpose which gives to every man his due.

1 Jurisprudence is the knowledge of things divine and human, the science of the just and the unjust . . . .

3 The precepts of the law are these: to live honestly, to injure no one, and to give every man his due.

4 The study of law consists of two branches, law public, and law private. The former relates to the welfare of the Roman State; the latter to the advantage of the individual citizen. Of private law then we may say that it is of threefold origin, being collected from the precepts of nature [--> notice, the natural law foundation], from those of the law of nations, or from those of the civil law of Rome.


1 The law of nature is that which she has taught all animals; a law not peculiar to the human race, but shared by all living creatures, whether denizens of the air, the dry land, or the sea. Hence comes the union of male and female, which we call marriage; hence the procreation and rearing of children, for this is a law by the knowledge of which we see even the lower animals are distinguished. The civil law of Rome, and the law of all nations, differ from each other thus. The laws of every people governed by statutes and customs are partly peculiar to itself, partly common to all mankind. Those rules which a state enacts for its own members are peculiar to itself, and are called civil law: those rules prescribed by natural reason for all men are observed by all peoples alike, and are called the law of nations. Thus the laws of the Roman people are partly peculiar to itself, partly common to all nations; a distinction of which we shall take notice as occasion offers.

2 Civil law takes its name from the state wherein it binds . . .  But the law of nations is common to the whole human race; for nations have settled certain things for themselves as occasion and the necessities of human life required. For instance, wars arose, and then followed captivity and slavery, which are contrary to the law of nature; for by the law of nature all men from the beginning were born free. The law of nations again is the source of almost all contracts; for instance, sale, hire, partnership, deposit, loan for consumption, and very many others . . .
Yes, obviously imperfect in both cases; but also yes, consciously undertaken in a God-fearing, Christian context.

For, as the Christian faith advances in a community and attains to critical mass, historically there will be institutional and in particular legal changes reflecting Christian moral thought; including the scriptural endorsement of core moral law such as we see in Rom 13:"The commandments . . .  are summed up in this statement: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor [it never hurts anyone]. Therefore [unselfish] love is the fulfillment of the Law."

Clearly, not without good reason in a great many instances. Reformation rooted in spreading discipleship, then, is a fact; one that often -- albeit inevitably imperfectly -- reflects the power of the teachings of Jesus.

d --> Such a process of reform took centuries, and clearly it was never a one-sided affair (where, sadly, there were many errors, unwise compromises and sins or even crimes and atrocities in the process, cf Unit 9 below); but that synthesis created something new, a Judaeo-Christian civilisation, once known as Christendom

e --> In that civilisation, Christendom, the gospel as recorded in the Bible as the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenant, played a pivotal role in shaping the culture and the lives and views of the Christianised peoples, even among those who were not personally committed "born again" Christians. And, it was taken for granted that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised messiah, the crucified and risen Saviour and Lord, the Son of God who one day would come to Judge the living and the dead.

f --> In that context, it was natural to see in the order of nature, the evident design of life, the beauty of the heavens and the world, the powers of mind and the voice of conscience, strong cumulative evidence that decisively points to God. And so, major institutions, culture, law, politics and policy were often (though, not often enough and not thoroughly enough in a balanced way!) consciously shaped by that counsel. Here, we may again find the Pauline form of the Golden Rule in Rom 13 particularly helpful, especially in the NIV '84 rendering:

 Rom 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,”[a] and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.  

And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
g --> However, from the early 600's the Christianised peoples came into increasing conflict with the emergent Muslim ones, in the aftermath of the Jihad expansion by war that especially characterised the century after Mohammed's death (NB: cf. here, here, here, here, here and here on Islam), i.e. from from about 630 to 730 AD. The Islamic powers moved from having conquered Arabia c. 620 - 630 under Mohammed, to battering on the gates of India and those of Paris, France by the 730's. By 711, Spain had been invaded and (apart from some mountainous regions) was rapidly conquered, and then in 732, an invading Muslim Army was stopped by Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne, just 150 miles from Paris. In response to such invasions, to repeated piratical jihad raids (including on Rome, where the last general European leader was based, i.e. the pope), to attacks on and massacres of peaceful Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land, and in response to an appeal from the Byzantine Emperor, the world moved into the nearly 1,000 year long era of cold and hot wars between civilisations, with India, the Middle East, Spain and Eastern Europe as zones of long-term conflict. [These wars were only resolved when the European nations conquered the Middle East.] Unsurprisingly, worldviews conflict -- and thus philosophical debates -- also came into the picture.

h --> In that context, Schaeffer's timeline of pivotal events picks up with Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, a champion of natural theology who spoke to the issue of what is knowable by light of nature, and what is only knowable by faithful response to authentic revelation; or, "nature" and "grace."

i --> In advocating natural theology, argument to God from signs in nature and in our own conscious experience, Aquinas -- Schaeffer errs here --  did acknowledge the impairment of will and mind by man's sinful, rebellious position; but in many of the classic and more readily accessible key texts (which, then as now, tended to take on a life of their own similar to John 3:16 . . . ), Aquinas' balance was significantly different from what Paul emphasised, namely the tendency to rebel against and suppress what we can and should know about God on adequate evidence; but which we find distasteful. In light of John 8:42 - 47, we find it necessary to again ponder why Jesus also warns against this problem of systematic misunderstanding in no uncertain terms:

Jn 8:42Jesus said [--> to some who had adhered to him as his disciples!] . . . If God were your Father, you would love Me and respect Me and welcome Me gladly, for I proceeded (came forth) from God [out of His very presence]. I did not even come on My own authority or of My own accord (as self-appointed); but He sent Me.

    43Why do you misunderstand what I say? It is because you are unable to hear what I am saying. [You cannot bear to listen to My message; your ears are shut to My teaching.]  44You are of your father, the devil, and it is your will to practice the lusts and gratify the desires [which are characteristic] of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a falsehood, he speaks what is natural to him, for he is a liar [himself] and the father of lies and of all that is false.

    45But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me [do not trust Me, do not rely on Me, or adhere to Me] . . . .

47 Whoever is of God listens to God. [Those who belong to God hear the words of God.] This is the reason that you do not listen [to those words, to Me]: because you do not belong to God and are not of God or in harmony with Him. [AMP]
j --> So, there is a danger, even among those who ostensibly are following Christ, of being so locked into error that one is unable to hear the truth, precisely because it cuts across what one already believes and is unwilling to be corrected about. It is thus unsurprising that in later generations, men of a more skeptical disposition, would take the relationship of complementarity with distinction in how the unified truth is warranted between Nature and Grace that was presented by Aquinas, and turn it instead into  a division -- a dichotomy [= to cut in two] -- and an opposition such that Nature declares autonomy and "eats up" Grace:

 (The Schaeffer series as a whole is available here.)

k --> The same principle of an autonomous [ = law unto itself] lower storey that tends to crush the upper storey then led to centuries of conflict over finding a unified and satisfactory worldview. Skeptical, rationalist, empiricist and idealist worldviews that dismiss God and the evidence that points to him thus tend to be fragmentary, lacking cohesion. And that lack of coherence and resulting inner tensions are pointer-signs that reveal their key, fatal defects.  This immediately points to a strategy for response through prophetic intellectual and cultural leadership, as we may adapt from Schaeffer's "taking the roof off" diagram in his The God Who is There [also HT, WJM and CY et al at UD]:

. . . where, by a happy coincidence, we can now readily fill in the "roof" (and now view the seven mountains as pillars that support it); thus, illustrating how prophetic, gospel ethics informed intellectual and cultural leadership champions a sound alternative:

l --> By the time we reach the beginning of the 1800's, we arrived at a threshold that Schaeffer aptly called The Line of Despair. Hope of a unified, rationalistic, empirically grounded worldview that brought it all together in a harmonious whole was increasingly surrendered.  Kant, a precursor, saw an inescapable gap between the world of our inner life (including our perceptions of the external world)  and the external world of things in themselves. But in this, as William Lane Craig points out in one of his recent debates with Ludemann, there is already a key, fatal self-referential contradiction:
insofar as these . . . assumptions include Kant's strictures on the scope of scientific knowledge, they are deeply, fatally flawed. For Kant must at least be claiming to have knowledge of the way some things (e.g., the mind and its structures and operations) exist in themselves and not merely as they appear; he confidently affirms that the idea of God, for instance, has the property of unknowability. [10] So the theory relies on knowledge that the theory, if it was true, would not -- could not -- allow. [ Jesus' Resurrection: Fact or Figment, ed. Paul Copan (Downer's Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), p. 13. NB: Ref. [10] is to Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief, pp. 3 - 30, and is shortly followed by a reference to F. H. Bradley's gentle but stinging opening salvo in his Appearance and Reality, 2nd Edn.: that "The man who is ready to prove that metaphysical knowledge is impossible has . . . himself . . . perhaps unknowingly, entered the arena [of metaphysics] . . . . To say that reality is such that our knowledge cannot reach it, is to claim to know reality." (Clarendon Press, 1930), p.1]
m --> Soon thereafter, Hegel (and famously Marx . . . ), no longer thought in terms of truth and error in direct opposition, but instead radically relativised truth and access to it into a sort of ongoing evolutionary triangular process of an idea and another idea in tension with it, so that these ideas contend for a time and yield a partial unity that leads on to the next stage. Thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis, repeat. (Marx's key difference was he pushed the idea of intellectual struggles into clashes of classes of men in contention over fundamentally economic concerns.) Illustrating -- and, warning, this triangular pattern is superficially enticing but often misleading . . . for, in a world where marches of ruinous folly are real, one cannot tell truth or soundness of claimed "progress" by the clock or by the mere outcomes of factions and conflicts over power:

n --> According to Schaeffer, Kierkegaard, in turn, would see himself as finding the hoped for unity and meaningfulness by a willed leap of faith. From him would come the religious and secular existentialists; hence eventually Schaeffer's man desperately clinging to the experience of the redness of a rose or the beauty of a sunset as the anchor-point for meaning in his life.

o --> And meanwhile, area after area of culture would fall beneath the line, following the ideas pioneered by philosophy. Arts and music, general culture, professions, government, and last of all, theology itself.

INSERT ON ART, BEAUTY, AESTHETICS:  Given that one outcome of the process is the deliberate flouting of principles of beauty [ponder how, e.g. London's skyline has been spoiled and other examples of gross ugliness imposed by power through architecture] it is worth pausing to note on principles of aesthetics

Architecture of ugliness and imposition. (See discussion)

"[Where,] reflective (and perhaps, aided) observation of case studies [--> see linked] can support an inductive process that tries to identify principles and design patterns of effective artistic or natural composition that reliably excite the beauty response. [--> And we are of course here looking at "Mount" arts and culture]

That can be quite suggestive . . . :

  • symmetry,
  • balance,
  • pattern (including rhythms in space and/or time [e.g. percussion, dance]),
  • proportion (including the golden ratio phi, 1.618 etc)
  • unity or harmony (with tension and resolution), highlighting contrast, variety and detail,
  • subtle asymmetry,
  • focus or vision or theme,
  • verisimilitude (insight that shows/focusses a credible truth/reality)
  • echoing of familiar forms (including scaled, fractal self-symmetry),
  • skilled combination or composition
  • and more.
We may see this with greater richness by taking a side-light from literature, drama and cinema, using the premise that art tells a story, drawing us into a fresh vision of the world, ourselves, possibilities . . . .
[As a pivotal case, we may ponder] a reconstruction of what the portrait [Mona Lisa] may have originally looked like. Over 400 years have passed, varnish has aged and yellowed, poplar wood has responded to its environment, some pigments have lost their colour, there have apparently been over-zealous reconstructions. Of course, the modern painter is not in Da Vinci’s class.
However, such a reconstruction helps us see the story the painting subtly weaves.
A wealthy young lady sits in a three-quarters pose . . . already a subtle asymmetry, in an ornate armchair, on an elevated balcony overlooking a civilisation-tamed landscape; she represents the upper class of the community that has tamed the land.

Notice, how a serpentine, S-curved road just below her right shoulder ties her to the landscape and how a ridge line at the base of her neck acts as a secondary horizon and lead in. Also, the main horizon line (at viewer’s eye-level) is a little below her eyes; it is relieved by more ridges. She wears bright red, softened with dark green and translucent layers. Her reddish brown hair is similarly veiled. As a slight double-chin and well-fed hands show, she is not an exemplar of the extreme thinness equals beauty school of thought. The right hand is brought over to the left and superposed, covering her midriff — one almost suspects, she may be an expectant mother. Her eyes (note the restored highlights) look to her left . . . a subtle asymmetry that communicates lifelike movement so verisimilitude, as if she is smiling subtly with the painter or the viewer — this is not a smirk or sneer.

And of course the presence of an invited narrative adds to the aesthetic power of the composition.

These classics (old and new alike) serve to show how stable a settled judgement of beauty can be. Which raises a question: what is beauty? Like unto that: are there principles of aesthetic judgement that give a rational framework, setting up objective knowledge of beauty? And, how do beauty, goodness, justice and truth align?

These are notoriously hard questions, probing aesthetics and ethics, the two main branches of axiology, the philosophical study of the valuable.

Where, yes, beauty is recognised to be valuable, even as ethics is clearly tied to moral value and goodness and truth are also valuable, worthy to be prized." [--> And just so, the undermining of respect for the valuable through beauty is organically connected to undermining respect for the valuable in morality and in truth.]
p --> All of this breakdown beneath the line of despair spread out in ripples from Germany (and its major universities), to its neighbours such as France and Holland, Britain and then by the early C20, America then the world at large; at least that part strongly influenced by Western Culture. 

q --> But, too, there were people of insight who saw the possible consequences. Christian Johann Heinrich Heine (cf. Wikipedia bio, here) a German poet, journalist and writer, and a Jewish Christian [baptised as such in 1825], in 1831, in Religion and Philosophy in Germany, wrote one of the most chillingly accurate (and too often neglected) prophecies in all modern literature -- yes, a full century before the Nazis rose to power:

Christianity — and that is its greatest merit — has somewhat mitigated that brutal German love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered [--> the Swastika, visually, is a twisted, broken cross . . .], the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame. …

The old stone gods will then rise from long ruins and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and Thor will leap to life with his giant hammer and smash the Gothic cathedrals. …

Do not smile at my advice — the advice of a dreamer who warns you against Kantians, Fichteans, and philosophers of nature. Do not smile at the visionary who anticipates the same revolution in the realm of the visible as has taken place in the spiritual. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder … comes rolling somewhat slowly, but … its crash … will be unlike anything before in the history of the world. …

At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead [--> cf. air warfare, symbol of the USA], and lions in farthest Africa [--> the lion is a key symbol of Britain, cf. also the North African campaigns]  will draw in their tails and slink away. … A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll.
r -->   So, plainly, for a long time, insightful or even inspired thinkers warned against and mourned the loss of unified meaning based on  rationalist ideas as informed by scientific evidence from observation and evolving theories. ( N.b.: rationalism is a skeptical approach to thought and knowledge that in effect rejects or even mocks the possibility or credibility of revelation from God, as step number one to "critically aware" learning.)

s --> But, they were not heeded. And now, as a global movement -- one that, in light of Heine's warning on the consequences of rationalist skepticism and irrational neo-paganism, we should be extremely wary of -- we arrive at the ultra- or post- moderns, who celebrate what was once mourned. Mary Klages (as a typical example) sums up this view and spirit:

“[Postmodernism] differs from modernism in its attitude toward a lot of these trends. Modernism, for example, tends to present a fragmented view of human subjectivity and history (think of [T. S. Eliot’s epochal poem] The Wasteland, for instance, or of Woolf's To the Lighthouse), but presents that fragmentation as something tragic, something to be lamented and mourned as a loss . . . Postmodernism, in contrast, doesn't lament the idea of fragmentation, provisionality, or incoherence, but rather celebrates that. The world is meaningless? Let's not pretend that art can make meaning then, let's just play with nonsense.[Emphasis added.]
t --> Thomas Oden is withering in his response to such thinking:
Postmodernity in my meaning is simply that historical formation that will follow the era of spent modernity – the time span from 1789 [fall of Bastille, start of French Revolution] to 1989 [fall of Berlin Wall, end of Communist revolutionary era] which characteristically embraced an enlightenment worldview that cast an ideological spell over our times, now in grave moral spinout . . . We could call what is passing the era of French Enlightenment, German Idealism, and British Empiricism, but those influences are just more complicated ways of saying modern consciousness . . . .

Experience teaches that when avant-garde academics bandy about the term “postmodern,” it is usually more accurate to strike post and insert ultra. For guild scholars, postmodern simply means hypermodern, where the value assumptions of modernity are nostalgically recollected and ancient wisdoms compulsively disregarded. Meanwhile the emergent actual postmodernity that is being suffered through outside the ivory tower is not yet grasped or rightly appraised by those in it.

We do not at all mean by post modernity what many academics mean – deconstructionist literary criticism and relativistic nihilism . . . Richard Rorty and Jacques Derrida are ultra-modern writers according to this definition, rather than postmodern . . . . what is named post is actually a desperate extension of despairing modernity that imagines by calling itself another name (postmodern), it can extend the ideology of modernity into the period following modernity . . . .

My use of the term “postmodern” began in 1969 . . . in seeking to describe spiritual wanderers searching for roots, before Derrida and Foucalt popularized it, and just before the Architectural world began to shanghai the idea. When philosophers and literary critics got around to using the term postmodernity in the 80’s to be applied to what we are calling ultramodernity, my thought was that the term was being misapplied then, and it still is now . . . . We can defiantly sit on the term postmodern with a paleo-orthodox spin . . . on the grounds that its earlier meaning is preferable to its later meaning, and the logic of a Christian understanding of modern history demands it. The logic of modernity demands something to follow it, even when the myth of modernity lives in denial of that possibility. [“The Death of Modernity and Postmodern Evangelical Spirituality,” in The Challenge of Postmodernism, Ed. David S. Dockery (Wheaton, IL: Bridgepoint/Victor, 1995), pp. 25 – 27.]
u --> Of course, on another front, we face the resurgence of the same Islamic worldviews, ideological and geostrategic challenges that Europe faced in Aquinas' day. But this time around, Western Civilisation is eaten out from within, and is filled with inner doubts as to whether it even deserves to live.

(See here, here and here for some commentary on suicide of our civilisation. It is worth a pause to clip the latter. Here let us listen to Dr
Miša Djurković, of Serbia [so, outside the European colonialism and plantation projects but within the civilisation and with a bone-deep memory of dhimmitude-subjugation under Ottoman Turk Islamic conquest and colonisation], as he speaks from his base in political philosophy:

Western civilization (including Russia), over the past five hundred years, thanks to Christianity, has advanced vitality, entrepreneurship, research spirit, science, technology, extraordinary systems of organization (from the military and education to the economy), to almost every part of the planet. During that period, of course, there were dark sides, such as the extermination of entire peoples (deliberate or unintentional), the plundering of resources and artistic heritage, the struggle for colonial advancement, and so on. But the fact is that the peoples of Europe managed to defend themselves first from the attacks of other civilizations on their own soil, and then to go on and effectively rule the world. [--> through the Iberian ocean breakout: Columbus, da Gama, Magellan etc. cf. here] Generations of top military leaders, strategists, inventors, geographical researchers, architects, biologists, anthropologists, economists, and entrepreneurs have expanded Western domination, bringing with them the most modern achievements of civilization while at the same time abolishing cannibalism, human sacrifice, the burning of widows, and similar practices. But if you try to point out this positive side of colonization at Western universities today, you will surely be fired, and even run the risk of being indicted as a racist.

Western countries are understandably marked with monuments to those aforementioned generations of people, which pay tribute to them while also reminding new generations of the power and vitality their countries once had. That the United States might allow the erection of a monument to a defeated General like Robert E. Lee (a top strategist and who was personally against secession, but was led by the feeling of honor to respect his home state’s decision rather than accept Lincoln’s offer to become commander of the forces of the North), was a sign of this strength . . . . By the way, since both Washington and Jefferson were also slave owners, I guess the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution should be annulled too, if this logic is followed.[*]

This [stigmatising and scapegoating] revision of history and the loss of identity logically goes hand in hand with the destruction of the natural family. Strong and numerous Christian families were the basis for the rise of Western civilization.

This really is a war, a war for the defense of identity and heritage that has made European man [and those who acceded to Western Civilisation and especially to the gospel and its civilisation-shaping, ever reforming prophetic ethics, we may safely add] great at least in one long period of human history. Those who, through their totalitarian monopoly in the media, education, and science, teach the descendants of these great people to be ashamed and renounce their past, know very well what they are doing in that war. Now, the only question is whether all of us, from Vladivostok to California, will have the strength to defend the right to our memory and identity, and thus the ability to survive and not turn into the shapeless biomass that the new global masters are modeling in their molds.)
[* Thus, the pivotal value of understanding that core law is rooted in our morally governed nature and thus the first duties of reason as Cicero and others noted, further rooted in our creation and thus our inherently good, utterly wise Creator. Such law of our nature is therefore universally binding, e.g. we need no legislature or judge to know that to shed innocent blood is inherently criminal. This insight allows us to reckon with the inevitable clay feet of even our greatest, most noble but merely mortal and sinful men and their thought, while we learn from them and prize their key discoveries and advances so we can build soundly on them. To fail this test is to fail civilisation and to open the door to yet another dark night of tyranny.]

v --> Against that backdrop, we of the gospel are called to stand up as a unique people, a counterculture and an alternative that calls men to listen to the voice of God in not only the signs we can see in the world around and in our minds and consciences within, but through authentic testimony to the gospel backed up by the sign of the resurrection, through the thereby released miraculous transforming power of God in our lives, the God we have been forgiven and blessed by, and in light of his authenticated Word. 

w --> Under that call, we can again recall the force of the programme of action in Eph 4 in a new, deeper light:

 Eph 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says,  
                    “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
        and he gave gifts to men.”

 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?1  10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds  and teachers,  12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,4  to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
x --> The authentic truth in love liberates, and that same truth in love transforms individuals, families, communities and cultures, if we will but receive it with gratitude and repentant trust:
Eph 4: 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.

18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 

20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!- 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,5  which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
And so, we must now go on to further elaborate what the truth in love as authenticated by the sign of the resurrection is, and how it transforms, so we may be better able to receive it and be blessed by God through it.

The focus for this unit has been on on warranting our confidence in the scriptures and their main message, in the face of worldview level challenges, starting from the contemporary dominance of a priori evolutionary materialism, and from Paul's encounter with the Athenian intellectual elite on Mars Hill.

1] Why is it that Richard Dawkins has felt confident enough to say on the record that "It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)"? [“Put Your Money on Evolution” The New York Times (April 9, 1989) section VII p.35. You may wish to see his onward 2006 article here, a somewhat sympathetic theistic response here, Dembski's response here, Egnor's remarks here and creationist rebuttals here, here and here.]

2] Similarly, why did Lewontin not see it as a basic error in logic to impose evolutionary materialism as an a priori on doing science? What is the effect of such an a priori on the degree of warrant for knowledge claims in origins science, and why?

3] What would be your response if you were challenged along the lines of what Dawkins or Lewontin have said? In light of the critical summary here and other sources pro and con that you may explore [try: here, here, and here for a start], have the evolutionary materialists succeeded in "putting God out of a job"? Why or why not?

4] Examine and summarise the above discussion on the significance of digitally coded, functionally specific complex information in the living cell:

a:  is the summary of how proteins are made in the cell accurate and fair?
b: what is the usual source of language, codes, computer programs and symbols, on your observation?
c: given remarks here, is it plausible that such things could spontaneously originate by undirected forces of necessity and chance? why or why not?
d: is it a fair, empirically warranted conclusion that FSCI is a signature of intelligent design?
e: what do your conclusions imply about the origin of cell-based life and of major body plans, why?
f:  what do these issues imply about the credibility of the idea that we are created by God?
5] Given the motives, attitudes, words and actions of many evolutionary scientists from Darwin, Huxley and Haeckel to Dawkins, Sagan and Lewontin to today's champions of evolutionary materialistic science, it fair to compare pagan idols in temples with modern "educational" animatronic dinosaur displays in museums? Why or why not? What are the implications of your answers?

6] Are generic and Biblical, Judaeo-Christian theism credible or well warranted? Why or why not? In light of the issues raised by Paul, as well as Heine, Craig, Schaeffer, Oden and others, what are the implications of your answers for the individual, the community and our civilisation as well as the wider world? Why? 

7]  Is it reasonable to say that we find ourselves subject to binding moral principles such as fairness, respect and love for others? In light of your answer, what are the implications of the problems of good and evil? And, what do the resulting moral issues imply for the transformation of lives, families, churches, communities and cultures?