Monday, May 31, 2010

Necessary Existence and the Ontological Argument

An atheist (here) says that the ontological argument fails because, "what it hinges on is the definition of God as being "maximally great" and of maximally great as including the idea of necessary existence. Necessary existence simply isn't logically possible." When asked for a reason to think this, he said, "Something cannot be logically necessary if it's contrary is logically possible. It certainly appears that a world with no God is logically possible." But this is demonstrably false.

When considering the ontological argument, you have to differentiate between metaphysical possibility (actualizability) and epistemic possibility (imaginability)1. The statement that it appears that it is logically possible for there to be a world with no God only has epistemic merit, in that we could think of God not existing. To say, however, that it is possible for a necessary being to not exist is truly square circle territory metaphyiscally. How could a being that is necessary not exist? While it may be possible to imagine it, it is impossible to actualize a world where a being that must exist doesn't. That is why the ontological argument works. It shows that God is either necessary, or impossible. So, David must show that it is impossible that a maximally great being exists. But it certainly seems possible...

Furthermore, the statement, "it is possible that God does not exist," is not the negation of, "it is possible that God exists." Rather, the negation of "it is possible that God exists" would be "it is not possible that God exists." So his contention fails at that point as well.

1 William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2003), P. 497

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Theological Fatalist's Modal Fallacy

Theological fatalists posit that God's foreknowledge of future events mean that it is not possible for anything other than what happens to happen. Since God knows every event that will happen, then aren't those events necessary?

This mode of thinking works out like this:

1) Necessarily, if God foreknows x will happen, then x will happen
2) God foreknows x will happen
3) Therefore, necessarily x will happen

which would take the form:

□ P -> Q
□ Q

But this is a non sequitur. All that would actually follow from the premises displayed is Q. In terms of God's foreknowledge, all that would follow is that x will happen, not that necessarily x will happen.

Theological fatalists have tried to remedy this by positing that the second premise is also necessary. So the argument would go:

1) Necessarily, if God foreknows x will happen, then x will happen
2') Necessarily, God foreknows x will happen
3) Therefore, necessarily x will happen

which takes the valid form:

□ P -> Q
□ P
□ Q

This would make the syllogism valid, but is premise 2' true? At first glance, no. If it is necessary that God knows a specific event will happen, then God is as fatalistically determined as everyone else. It certainly seems like God's knowledge of future events isn't necessary, because it is possible that God could have chosen not to create the universe, meaning there would be no future events.

But the fatalist is aware of this, so they say that premise 2' isn't logically necessary, but chronologically necessary; meaning that since God foreknew x in the chronological past, that event (the event of God knowing x) is now necessary in the past. But, no philosopher has been able to explain how this works out and why this should be true.

In fact, we could say that since God's knowledge of future events is contingent on those events actually happening (otherwise He would know that those events would not happen) then we could say that God's knowledge of x, while chronologically prior to x, is actually logically subsequent to x. God knows x because x will happen. x isn't necessitated by God knowing x.

So, in the case of free human actions, we have the ability to act in such a way that determines what God knows in the past. Take the example William Lane Craig likes to use. Jesus prophesied that Peter would deny Him. The moment before Peter denied Jesus, he had the ability to act in such a way that if he did, Jesus would not have prophesied as He did. Peter didn't have the ability to contradict Jesus' prophesy, because Jesus is infallible. However, Peter did have the ability to make it so Jesus would not have prophesied that Peter would deny Him.

For a really good lecture on this, and what inspired this post, listen here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What Just Happened!?!?

Created by: Matt Palumbo

Who's an Author?

Lately there's been talk between Arminians and Calvinists over determinism and its implications on who is the author of sin. Surprisingly, there have been questions over what "author of sin" actually implies. JC Thibodaux said, "The term 'author' as employed by Arminians/Synergists in this case, is used in an originative sense to describe where the evil ultimately arose from. If we can identify, "whose idea was this?", then we’ve found the author." He further explained, "the ‘author’ of an action doesn’t necessarily describe someone directly committing that action, rather it denotes the one who came up with the action to begin with" (seen here). But some have questioned that notion, either questioning what authorship is, or saying that authorship doesn't = blameworthiness.

It's surprising that this problem exists today, since early Calvinists such as Calvin himself and the Westminster divines clearly understood what was meant by the author of sin, and made sure to make clear that their views were not to be understood to make God the author of sin. Of course it would have been nice to see an explanation of that rather than just an assertion, because it seems that the logical progression would indeed end with God as sin's author.

If someone authors a book, that person is the source of the idea and the actual words that appear in that book. That person is blameworthy for anything in that book, whether positive or negative. Likewise, when one refers to someone as the author of a sin, the sin originated in and proceeded forth from whoever carried the sin out, making that person blameworthy. If someone authors something, whatever that something is, we should give that person due credit for whatever they authored. Therefore I think we can say if person x authors action A, A originates in x and proceeds from x. x also has the ability to refrain from A-ing, since A originates in x. Therefore, if divine determinism is true, all actions A originate in God and proceed from God, either directly or through secondary causes, and God would be responsible for A.

Let's look at it this way. I think God is the author of the universe as a whole. He caused the universe to come into being. I want to ascribe responsibility of what God has done to God because He deserves the glory for what He has done. God authored the universe. But if we're okay with God as author of the universe, since the idea originated in His mind, why would we say He isn't the author of sin if all sins originated in His mind?

But still, as Paul Manata said to me, these explanations or definitions of what authorship is remain "uninteresting" to the determinist. I can't see the issue determinists have with these definitions, and why they would be uninteresting. Language is such that you can only describe what something is, its definition, in so many ways. If the other person continues to press for further elucidation, then at some point things just become less clear than they actually were. I have a suspicion this is done to simply make the issue murky, which may be an effective tactic for the determinist, but it answers nothing.

It still remains for the determinist to say how his view actually does not implicate God in the authorship of sin. Yes, you can continue to ask exactly what the words mean. Yes, you can come up with clever allegories. But in the end, how would the determiner of all events not be the author of all events?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Why Bringing Up Crystals in a Debate Over ID is a Bad Idea

From Thomas Cudworth of Uncommon Descent:

We have no experience of such complex integrated systems being built up by chance, or by any process largely dominated by purely contingent events. Yes, crystals and snowflakes can form naturally into elaborate geometrical patterns, but crystals and snowflakes do not eat, breathe, digest, walk, fly, mate, think, laugh, cry or sacrifice themselves for a political or religious idea. Their mathematical structures are neither machinelike nor lifelike; they do not display the adaption of means to ends that both machines and organisms do (

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Backward Nation

My cousin posted this on Facebook today. I'm not sure who the author is, but I think it's too good not to post.

NEW School prayer:
Now I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule
For this great nation under God
Finds mention of Him very odd.
If scripture now the class recites,
It violates the Bill of Rights.
And anytime my head I bow
Becomes a Federal matter now.
Our hair can be purple, orange or green,
That's no offense; it's a freedom scene..
The law is specific, the law is precise.
Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.
For praying in a public hall
Might offend someone with no faith at all..
In silence alone we must meditate,
God's name is prohibited by the state.
We're allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,
And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks...
They've outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible.
To quote the Good Book makes me liable.
We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen,
And the 'unwed daddy,' our Senior King.
It's 'inappropriate' to teach right from wrong,
We're taught that such 'judgments' do not belong..
We can get our condoms and birth controls, Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles..
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed,
No word of God must reach this crowd.
It's scary here I must confess,
When chaos reigns the school's a mess.
So, Lord, this silent plea I make:
Should I be shot; My soul please take!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Essay on Arminius' View of Free Will

Jacob Arminius, in my opinion, articulated the most Biblical and coherent view of the capabilities and limitations of man's free will. A great essay on this subject can be found here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

By Golly!!! It's All True!!!! WE PROVED IT WITHOUT A FLIPPIN DOUBT (see awesome assumptions)

So I meander over to today, and see the provocative news article title, Darwin’s theory of universal common ancestry confirmed, which linked to the article, First Large-Scale Formal Quantitative Test Confirms Darwin's Theory of Universal Common Ancestry.

So, apparently all shadows of doubt have been removed from the quest to confirm that we all descend from a single common ancestor of the single-cellular-puddle-of-muck kind! Well this is an awful big assertion, and should be huge news! However, knowing how often the popular science media manipulates their evolution article titles (saying something completely different within the actual article) I did something novel the article. About halfway through, I find what I figured I was going to find. A crapload of circular reasoning. It turns out that "Theobald's study rests on several simple assumptions about how the diversity of modern proteins arose." Woah, wait....? This glaringly vehement pronouncement rests on a few key assumptions!??!? Well let's see what these are.

First, he assumed that genetic copies of a protein can be multiplied during reproduction, such as when one parent gives a copy of one of their genes to several of their children. Second, he assumed that a process of replication and mutation over the eons may modify these proteins from their ancestral versions. These two factors, then, should have created the differences in the modern versions of these proteins we see throughout life today. Lastly, he assumed that genetic changes in one species don't affect mutations in another species -- for example, genetic mutations in kangaroos don't affect those in humans.

So basically, he assumes that it is a process of evolution controlled by the mechanism of natural selection that has led to the vast diversity we see today, and then constructs a test to see how what he is trying to prove he assumes universal common ancestry (UCA) through slight mutations and then formulates an experiment to run around those assumptions. He's certainly claiming an awful lot based on some pretty sketchy assumptions.

The article continues:

But do the processes in these assumptions link humans to other animals? Do these processes link animals to other eukaryotes? Do these processes link eukaryotes to the other domains of life, bacteria and archaea? The answer to each of these questions turns out to be a resounding yes.
It does? Really? Could you tell me how we came to the assumptions that the rest of this study (which I'm sure used my tax dollars) is founded upon, and would collapse without? How do we know that "a process of replication and mutation over the eons may modify these proteins from their ancestral version"? Furthermore, the article doesn't tell us how this study shows us that UCA is so plausible a conclusion. It just says that Theobald did some study that proves UCA, believe us you stupid idiots.

I'm sorry, it take a bit more than an emphatic assertion to convince me. The title just shows the blatant dishonesty of the science media when dealing with this issue. It's provocative but presumptuous. How about a study that isn't based on such blatant question begging?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pride--The Sneaky Sin

It's amazing. Today at work I was thinking about just this topic, and then Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition fame posted on it today (here). One of my most powerful temptations since becoming well-learned in apologetics is to use it to make myself look smart. I find it difficult to separate the desire to advance Jesus’ kingdom and the sin to advance myself. This is something that I definitely need to turn to Him for.

Pride goes before destruction,
 And a haughty spirit before a fall.
Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly,
 Than to divide the spoil with the proud.
Proverbs 16:18-19

Monday, May 10, 2010

Where Many of the Insufferable Atheists Congregate

If you've ever been bombarded by atheists on your blog, it may be useful to know where they congregate to organize their little internet infidel atheist strikes.

Some reaction to my most recent post.

Postby BeamStalk » Mon May 10, 2010 10:16 pm
He is f@#%ing retarded.

Wow. What an impressive argument. I am almost convinced of my wrongheadedness.

Postby rufustfirefly » Mon May 10, 2010 10:23 pm
They think that just by saying that objective moral values come from "God", that it's true. We made up "gods" to justify our moral values. It used to be the best way to get people to pay attention to those values. Fear of god, fear of punishment. And even then, it didn't work very well.
Does rufus really think this is the argument? I sense a lack of logical ability here.

Postby Whateverman » Mon May 10, 2010 11:51 pm
First off, the problem of evil involves gratuitous (purposeless) evil? Since when? The Nazis were purposeful and represented the state-of-the-art of evil; an all powerful all beneficent deity should have stopped them.
Whatev, if it's just plain evil that is proposed on the problem of evil, this is an ineffective argument. It's fairly easy to show that God and plain ol' evil could coexist using the free will defense. I'm trying to help you out here.

Postby BathTub » Tue May 11, 2010 12:45 am
Mr. Tub is trying to make fun of me because I have so often pointed out the red herrings he introduces when trolling on Christian blogs. But whose fault is that?

That's all that's really notable as of now. I find it interesting they haven't dealt with my argument. I see a lot of appeal to ridicule and red herrings, but where's the refutation? Your precious argument from evil is on the line here!!!!!111!!!!1!1oneone

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Atheist's Own Dilemma

The argument from evil is quite popular among atheists, mainly because it is the only argument that even stands a chance against theistic evidences for the existence of God. Most of the time, it goes something like this:

1) If God exists, then He would not allow gratuitous evil to exist.
2) Gratuitous evil exists.
3) ∴ God does not exist.

Gratuitous evil is evil that has no purpose whatsoever. The argument is if God is all powerful and all good, why on earth does He not stop evil? He would if He did, in the mind of the atheist, so they conclude he must not. Well this argument is fairly easy to refute (ie free will defense; we cannot actually know if there is any gratuitous evil since we are not omnipotent and can't see what long term effects some evil may have) but I want to deal with the dilemma this argument creates for atheists.

Consider this:

4) If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.

There has never been any solution offered by atheists to this proposition. There are some that claim that pain is the foundation of objective values. Why? What if I think causing pain is good? What is the claim "pain is bad" founded upon? I've heard others say because we are rational, it is wrong to cause harm to each other. Why? Some people think it is good for them to hurt others. What makes them incorrect? If God doesn't exist, then morals are simply relative to socio-evolutionary contingencies, or even to individual opinion. Hitler thought it was morally good to kill Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals to rid the gene pool of their inferior genes. Why was his opinion wrong? Subjective opinions don't apply to anyone else but those who have formed them. I like chocolate, you may like strawberry. Neither of us is correct.

But if this proposition is true, then evil doesn't exist. Why? Because if God does not exist, objective morals don't exist. Right and wrong, good and evil, none of these terms actually apply to any objective reality. Things that are "evil" to you may be morally "good" to another. For anyone to actually be wrong, there has to be something beyond us that confirms its rightness or wrongness. What can the atheist propose to ground abstract entities such as morality, since abstract entities don't exist sans a mind?

So the dilemma arises for this problem of evil:

4) If God does not exist, then objective morals do not exist.
1) If God exists, then He would not allow gratuitous evil to exist.
2) Gratuitous evil exists.
3) ∴ God does not exist (modus tollens from 1 and 2).
5) ∴ objective morals do not exist (modus ponens from 4 and 3).
6) ∴ gratuitous evil does not exist (evil is a moral; contradicts 2).

This argument, therefore, is self contradictory. The argument from evil becomes useless. Either evil exists because God exists, or evil doesn't exist because God doesn't exist. But then the argument from evil disappears, since there is no evil to display that God does not exist. The reason for not believing in God, evil, has disappeared. It doesn't exist.

What shall the atheist do?