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There are laws in the universe. There is a right and wrong beyond man's imagining. They are principles set down by God, and summarized in the Ten Commandments. These are laws that transcend what man thinks and what hid opinions are.

However, man seeks to establish right and wrong as what he thinks. Many people think that right and wrong should be determined by a democratic majority. They say that whatever they do, as long as it is acceptable to them and all other persons involved, it is okay. That's wrong.

God created man with a conscience. This conscience gives man an idea of right and wrong, even though man is fallen through sin. However, it can be overcome by gradual suppression and wrongdoing, as well as the working of Satan. Everyone has a conscience. Everyone knows what is right and wrong, deep inside. Anyone who denies this is lying against himself.

Osama bin Laden knows that his actions are wrong. But he persists in doing them because he hates Westerners so much. He hates from the bottom of his heart, and has convinced himself that it is right to do so, with the excuse being a religion that trains him in hate. But it is his fault. He sinned. People are evil.

Saying your ego is controlling you is an excuse. It is you who engrained yourself in such hatred. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you can become free.

Just doing the kind of things you are doing, whether or not you think your ego is controlling you, means you are falling short of the glory of God. With just one shortcoming from the law, you are condemned, since you are not as holy as God. The only way in which you cannot be condemned is if you're covered with Christ's righteousness.

I wrote about the more here.

Now read all of what you just wrote. All valid thoughts about ultimate reality. Yet contradictory to one another. And ask yourself if *thoughts* will ever give you the answers you are seeking. Or is thought just the tiniest surface of what is?

"How can feeble reason encompass the Qur'án,
Or the spider snare a phoenix in his web? " - Persian Sufi saying

Thought is well and good as long as we can let go, stand back, and just allow it to draw the outline of reality for us, point us to what truly is.

Note: my previous comment was addressed to Michael's blog entry, not Althusius' comments.

>And ask yourself if *thoughts* will ever give you the answers you are seeking.

Excellent point. The answer to my little dilemma may be that I can't reason it out. Maybe I can reason out small things, like the plots of my novels, but not the really big things, like the ultimate meaning of existence. After all, to work it out intellectually, I would have to be as smart as God. Since I'm not, I may have about as much chance of comprehending such things intellectually as, say, an ant has of grasping quantum physics. In which case the only way to understand it - if there is any way at all - is to go beyond the limitations of the intellect, into direct mystical awareness. But then the resulting understanding can't be adequately translated into words, because this would require reducing it to something the intellct can encompass.

Interesting ...

>Osama bin Laden knows that his actions are wrong. But he persists in doing them because he hates Westerners so much. He hates from the bottom of his heart, and has convinced himself that it is right to do so, with the excuse being a religion that trains him in hate. But it is his fault. He sinned. People are evil.

I wonder if identifying him as evil really helps us in any practical sense. If my kitchen is infested with cockroaches, I'll break out the insecticide and deal with the problem, without calling the bugs evil. Ditto al-Qaeda - whether or not we decide they are evil, they are certainly a problem that must be dealt with (in more or less the same way - by extermination).

In the past I have had no qualms about using the terms good and evil. But I wonder if I have been too glib. You yourself say that Osama "has convinced himself that it is right" to hate Westerners. If he's convinced he's right, then can you really say "Osama bin Laden knows that his actions are wrong"? We don't actually know what bin Laden is thinking.

In Thomas Harris's novel Black Sunday, there is a short passage in which a female terrorist, who knows she is going to die in a terrorist action the next day, reviews the circumstances of her life. She is committed to her cause on account of awful things that happened to her family. The reader understands her motivation, while at the same time knowing that she must be stopped. In a sense, the reader is able to see things from her perspective but also from a broader perspective - to be in her shoes but also looking at her from outside. Perhaps one value of fiction is that sometimes it can help us to apply this dual perspective in real life.

There is also a practical value to understanding people you are trying to stop. "Know your enemy." We underestimate our opponents if we view them too simplistically. Perhaps this is one reason we underestimated the difficulties of occupying Iraq.

>whether or not we decide they are evil,

That's the whole point of my comment is that we humans do not decide what who is right and who is evil. It is God who set up the standards. When any of us look at our actions in relation to the Law, we realize that we are all evil. However there are some people who commit more heinous sins than others (e.g. killing 3,00 people). Bin Laden is one of those people. Identifying him as evil is helpful to others who may not know the situation fully, as well as himself; though the latter is limited in cases of such stubborness as Osama. Even if it doesn't help anyone, it's still true. The fact that there are other galaxies out there doesn't help anyone by knowing it, but it's still true.

>If he's convinced he's right, then can you really say "Osama bin Laden knows that his actions are wrong"? We don't actually know what bin Laden is thinking.

You're right, we don't know what he's thinking, so this is all speculation. However he is useful as an example.
He does know deep down inside that his actions are wrong, but he has convinced himself superficially that his actions are right (within the framework of Islam). He may just be doing this as a way to get to Muslim heaven, (I don't know what they call it) even though he knows it's wrong. People are wicked in that way since the fall. "The heart of man is desperately wicked."

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