Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)

It was a weird feeling to, while browsing the news on my phone as I attempted to drift to sleep, see that Christopher Hitchens had passed on. It's one of those shocks to the system. A sort of emotional jolt that manifests itself physically. I literally gasped.

I knew it was coming. We all did. It was well publicized that he had esophageal cancer, and the effects of that cancer are also well known. For whatever reason, whether it be his larger than life standing in society or the effects he has directly and indirectly had on my own life, it still came as a shock to me.

I never once rejoiced or found any pleasure in the sickness (and now death) of this long time enemy of my Lord. Whether the cultural offspring of his work (all you atheists) believes me or not, I wanted nothing but the best for this man, and for all of you for that matter.

A good portion of one's life devoted to undermining God's people, blaspheming His name, and harming His kingdom doesn't leave much optimism for his soul, but I do hope that there was a late change. Despite all he wrote about that change being a mental lapse or malfunction, he couldn't predict the future. As I said for Ken Pulliam, I hope Christopher Hitchens' spiritual state was other than it appeared. But God is just and Christopher Hitchens has received a just judgment, wherever he is.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

New Argument for the Christian God

Tim Tebow does what he does in the NFL.

Therefore Jesus Christ is clearly God, and Christianity is 100% true.

Nuff said.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Evil of Homosexuality

That's right folks. I said that. Homosexuality, as in acts pertaining to a homosexual nature, is evil. By definition, anything that is an affront to God's nature and against His commands is evil. Of course in the West's quest to erase guilt for sin, this is very un-PC and you'll rarely hear this phrase mentioned by anyone, even Christians. Anyone reading this blog knows I'm not one to stifle my rhetoric and at every chance I get challenge the PC nonsense of our culture.

But just what does homosexuality being evil entail? Well it entails just what any other evil action entails. That in thought or deed, if you perform a homosexual act you are acting against God and are sinning. However, whenever this issue comes up the pro-sin side immediately rattles off certain straw men. Why do you hate homosexuals? Why are you so intolerant? Why do you want to get in their bedroom and interfere with their personal life? In that vein, let's point out what the evil of homosexuality doesn't entail:

It does not entail that you are to hate the person who performs the act. People who have homosexual proclivities, or who endorse it, or who live the lifestyle, are still people made in God's image whom He loves. The very Bible that condemns homosexual acts also calls for us to love people and spread the message of salvation through Christ to them. We aren't to hate them. We aren't to go up to them and condemn them. We are to tell them that they are wrong and acting against God. However, that is usually when the aforementioned straw man is set up. On the contrary, when one tells another they are wrong for what they do, it is usually not out of hatred, but out of concern for the other person. If you hated the person why would you warn them about what they're doing?

It does not entail intolerance of the person. It does entail intolerance of the act. Everyone is intolerant of something. The toleration police simply live in an impossible fairy land. We're all intolerant of something. The ones who want to legitimize homosexuality are intolerant of those who want to continue to point out that it is a perversion. What we can tolerate is each other's existence. But no one should tolerate evil acts such that they don't speak out against them.

It finally doesn't entail that you want bedroom surveillance. Most people who don't want evil acts legitimized are not for infringement of personal liberty or for civil action for all evil actions. If you want to perform evil acts that don't hurt others in the privacy of your bedroom, go for it. That's between you and God. But when a society tries to legitimize certain evils, the morally conscious person has the duty to speak out against them.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Back! Does the Evil God Hypothesis Pose a Problem for Theists?

Hi all. Life has slowed down a little bit so I thought I'd try to dip my toes back into the apologetics blogosphere.

Dr. William Lane Craig, as all of my readers will know, has been touring Great Britain on his Reasonable Faith tour, debating some of the foremost atheist philosophers in British academia (thank goodness Dick Dawk made himself look so silly, because he'd have been such a poor opponent one wonders if it would have tarnished the whole tour). I've listened to two of the debates, the one against Stephen Law and the one against Peter Millican. In both debates the issue of the Evil or Anti-god came up. I actually went to Dr. Law's blog to comment on how silly I find that proposed analogy to be. Here is what I said regarding that and his overall performance in the debate:

If you were just arguing against Dr. Craig's God, Dr. Law, then why would you bring up the evil god hypothesis? This is one of the worst attempts at sophism that is out there in religious philosophy. How can you consider said evil god to be analogous at all to the Christian God at all, who is the greatest conceivable being? I can conceive of a being greater than the evil one, namely a good one. Further, since most theists posit God's nature as the basis of morality, such that acting against His nature would be to act in an evil way, then you're just relabeling what would then properly be called "good" as "evil." It does nothing to defeat the God hypothesis.

If you can handle some criticism, then to sum up my thoughts on your arguments: they were spectacularly bad. The evil god hypothesis doesn't prove anything, and is a practice in incoherence. You call some of the most scrutinized and well thought out arguments for God "weak," which is silly since if they were so weak you should have been able to argue against them pretty easily. Yet you don't really argue against any of them, Dr. Law. However, you did do much better at preparing for the debate than most atheists. You still stank up the joint.

FYI, if it's not clear it's part of the definition of God to be perfectly good, so arguing against an evil very powerful being is arguing something, but not against God.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Taking a Break

Even though this break really already started, for my many (not really) loyal readers who are anxiously awaiting my next post, I will be taking a slight break from blogging. School has started up again, and I have also started two new part time jobs, one being an internship, that will hopefully pave the way to a future career in my field of focus. Perhaps then after a while, God willing, I can look into continuing my quest to teach philosophy or apologetics in a seminary or even a secular university setting. We'll see where God leads. After I feel like I have enough time to dedicate to this blog again I will let you all know where I'm at.

Thanks to all. God bless you and keep you in His grace. Praise Christ the King!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Quick Dismissal of an Attempted Rebuttal

In response to BenFromCanada's attempt at a rebuttal to my Quickie on the POE:

First, he tries to dismiss the fact that transferring the necessity of God knowing what will happen to saying it must therefore necessarily happen is fallacious. It's simply the modal fallacy, and is accepted by philosophers as such.

He says that I assume we make choices before the choice is given to us. He continues on this strange path by saying that Jesus told Peter he'd deny him three times, and therefore it has to happen by necessity. But this is just reasserting his initial assertion that foreknowledge entails the necessity of what is foreknown, which is begging the question. That is the fallacious argument. What is foreknown by Jesus in this case is what Peter will freely choose. Jesus sees what will happen. If Peter would choose something else in the future, Jesus would see that instead. What Jesus' prophesy is is what people who've actually studied the issue of free will call soft facts in the past. These are facts contingent on future events; facts that would have been different should different choices happened in the future. To say someone other than Peter made the choice is silly. Who made the choice for Peter? Just because Jesus knew what Peter would do, He all of a sudden made the choice for him? That makes no sense.

Say you're looking at the future in a crystal ball, and you see certain people in the future making choices that you have no control over, and they are done completely freely. Did those people have to make those choices just because you knew about them in the past? How on earth could that be? What you know is what choice they WILL make, but the choice could have been otherwise (perhaps Ben needs to dust up his philosophical vocabulary. Certainty about what will happen is not necessity that they must happen).

He tries to say I misrepresented his post by saying that he said the Bible says we have no free will. But he did say that. And I quote: "there's the fact the bible itself says that free will isn't possible." He shows his (and other skeptic's) utter fail of a hermeneutic by linking to individual verses out of their contexts and saying they are contradictory. Then he reaffirms that he said the Bible says we don't have free will.....

Anyhoo, he shows his ignorance of Biblical translation by citing Isaiah 45 in saying that God creates evil, which of course is translated "calamity" in all modern translations. I never said Adam made us sinful. Adam sinned, which developed in him a sin nature, which is passed to us. No one said the capability to sin was included in original sin (free will gives us that capability). It is the inability to not sin that original sin gave us.

I never said there is no good without evil. God is good, and there was no evil when He existed alone. I said there may not be as much good in this world without some evil.

He claims it's a cop-out to say we lack God's knowledge in criticizing the problem of evil. But the POE assumes that a good God would have no reason to permit any evil whatsoever. But surely an God who sees the end from the beginning and knows the goods that suffering and evil will bring about is justified in allowing them. All Ben has is his immediate sphere to consider, doesn't know anything about the future, and probably only remembers about 20% of his past. So is Ben qualified to make such a huge assertion? He says that God should have given us the ability to see the reason for suffering. Sometime He does, but why should God do that? Who says we should know why we suffer? Ben? If God revealed the reasons for all suffering, then it seems highly probable to me that the good results that would have come from it actually wouldn't. How so? Part of the growth that a person goes through in suffering through something is not knowing how it will turn out. The other aspect is in trusting God through trials with unclear outcomes.

But here's the funny thing, God has told us the ultimate result of the suffering
of those who love Him is eternal bliss and reward.

The free will defense I gave IS the cliff-notes version of Plantinga's argument. The logical POE states that God and evil cannot coexist logically. The free will defense says that if God doesn't control our actions, then they certainly can, because it is logically impossible to make people freely act. Plantinga simply expands on that with numerous examples and uses logical notation to do so.

So in no way do Ben's assertions here hold any water. He's still using fallacious reasoning to assert that foreknowledge is not consistent with free will. He still says the Bible says we don't have free will (don't know why anyone would even remotely trust his Biblical interpretation). He says it's a cop-out to say we lack God's knowledge, but that observation directly defeats one of the assumptions of the probabilistic problem of evil. Just because he thinks God should have told us all the reasons doesn't mean God has to. The fact that God may have justified reasons to allow evil that we know nothing about is enough to defeat the assertion that God has no such reasons.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How is Adam Real if Evolution is True?

Because I don't want the comment section to get wildly off topic, I will answer a question posed to me regarding Adam that was posted on my last post.
This may be a ridiculous question, but it's something that I've been wondering about nevertheless, and I can't seem to find anything written on the matter. Anyway, do you have any idea how Adam imputed sin to this universe? If evolution were true, then how could an "Adam" actually have existed?
By "evolution" I assume you mean the biological side of the Grand Story, as JP Moreland calls it, which is how certain naturalists put forward as the way life emerged and developed on this planet. This includes a simple organism emerging from some prehistoric puddle and eventually evolving, by the mechanisms of random mutations and natural selection, into all of the various species we see today. You have to assume this Grand Story is true for your question to even make sense, since even 6 day young earth creationists accept that some life evolves, and biological organisms change from generation to generation.

Of course, the Grand Story is far from proven, and I'm not sure that, short of a time machine, it could ever be proven. To take what we have in terms of observations of biological organisms and extrapolate it into this Grand Story requires massive amounts of unbacked assumptions. Add to that the fact that the evidence strongly suggests that the mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection seem to be woefully inept at creating small changes in populations, let alone the vast diversity of life and biological function we see today, I don't think there's any reason to even dabble with thinking the Grand Story is true.

However, if it were, and humans were a part of this grand story, you could say much of the beginning of Genesis is metaphor, and Adam simply represents humanity or something, though this would seem to contradict the gospel writers and Paul, who seemed to consider Adam a real and historical person. It would require further explanation to solve those apparent contradictions.

Or, you could say that Adam evolved from lesser primates, and at that point God imported a rational soul into him, or he evolved his soul, or something of that sort, and that's when humanity began. But that seems extremely ad hoc (though not any more so than the Grand Story, ha) and then what do we do about Eve?

Of course I think these scenarios are highly contrived and don't think they're feasible for one that takes the Bible seriously. Frankly, as God's written revelation, the Bible has an epistemic authority that our often pitiful attempts at historical science do not have. When people get it wrong interpreting God's natural revelation, we have to dismiss what they say in favor of what God reveals, no matter how many defend the bad science or how emphatically they defend it. However, since there has been no good evidence that makes the Grand Story even begins to seem feasible, it's not a problem.

I tend to lean toward Progressive Creationism, though I am very open on the issue.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Quickie on the Problem of Evil

My brother in Christ and Internet bud Rhology has asked me to give my perspective to someone who has brought up the problem of evil. He's given his response, here is mine.

Note: I tried to post it as a comment over there, but Blogger seems to still be having issues with it's commenting system. It's only been what, like three years?

Bible says free will isn't possible due to prophesy:

It would be nice to see a citation here, because the Bible never comes out and says "free will isn't possible" obviously. You say there are a lot of prophecies that present a problem for the free will position. How does foreknowing what will happen mean that it must happen by necessity, or that God predetermined it? It doesn't. God can know what will happen simply in light of knowing only and all true propositions (omniscience) and propositions regarding the future would be included in that. So, God can know what we will freely choose, but don't have to choose, in the future. In other words, when you say, "If the future can be predicted, everything is predetermined," you are stating a non-sequitur.

Your conundrum is, in fact, an example of a modal fallacy. Just because someone knows something WILL happen doesn't mean it MUST or CAN'T NOT (pardon the double negative) happen. It seems quite odd to think it does. I mean we know things will happen all the time. It doesn't therefore mean that they must happen by necessity, or that we predetermined they will happen.

If you want to delve even further into what God knows, there's this concept called middle knowledge in which God knows counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. So He knows what anyone WOULD freely do if placed in any situation. For instance, He knows what I would, in fact, freely choose to do if given the choice to steal a horse in 1895. He also knew logically prior to creating this world that I would respond to your post if placed in the position of seeing it. Given that, it's not hard to see how God can providentially order the world to achieve His ends and not interfere with people's freedom.

Also I agree that free will and determinism are incompatible, but I don't think free will faces any huge philosophical objections at all.

Is free will a good thing:

Well if God granted it to us then, since all He created was good, yes. There are several other possibilities regarding why God allows evil free acts. It may be that there couldn't be a world with this much good without this kind of evil in it (Christ would never have been crucified for instance, which is an immeasurable good). It may be that He has morally sufficient reasons to allow it.The fact is, we don't have that middle knowledge I was talking about, and so therefore don't have sufficient knowledge to judge whether the evil we see is gratuitous. It's awful presumptuous of us to question whether there can't be a sufficiently good reason to allow what God allows.

A sinless heaven is a violation of free will:

How is that? Who says God "alters" our programming? Our programming was "altered" when Adam imputed to us all a sin nature. Perhaps that is removed. Perhaps being in the very presence of THE GOOD we will no longer have any desire, reason, or influences to do evil any longer. None of that entails that free will no longer exists. You've simply asserted that to be the case.

Also, no Christian says God removing free will would make Him evil. It's His prerogative to do that if He wants. But there's no indication He would want a bunch of mindless puppets to control.

So, to answer your three questions:

1. God has middle knowledge and providentially ordered creation in such a way that we freely choose what we want.

2. Free will is from God, and all gifts from God are good. There's no indication that free will is not present in the eschatos. It's not bad, and God allows it because we'd be mindless otherwise (or at least very one dimensional ;-)).

3. They've been solved for centuries, but especially since Alvin Plantinga tore it apart in the 70's.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Confess Your Sins One to Another

Sins I've committed:

  • I've put other things before God and my relationship with Him
  • I've idolozed things like material items and ideologies
  • I've taken God's name in vain by cursing
  • In sinning in other areas, I have defiled the Lord's Sabbath by not consecrating my days to Him
  • I have dishonored my father and my mother by disobeying them, by insulting them, by yelling at them, by taking advantage of them, by......
  • I have hated people, which Jesus equates with murder
  • I have never committed adultery or fornication, however, I have lusted after women, and that is equated with adultery by Jesus
  • I have stolen things
  • I have lied
  • I have coveted other people's posessions
That means I have broken all 10 of God's moral commands given to Moses and Israel. Add to that the multiple other moral violations that I have committed, and you'll see that I'm a rotten sinner.

Sins I bear guilt before God:




As you can see, Christ has taken all of those sins and paid for them with His sacrifice on the cross. The spotless lamb paid for all of my dirty disgusting crimes.

God Can Be Pretty Harsh: Mark Driscoll

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What is Marriage?

In their paper, What is Marriage?, Princeton University philosophers Robert George, Ryan Anderson, and Sherif Girgis present what is probably the most complete and comprehensive defense of traditional marriage to date. It is available for download here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lawrence Krauss: Bigger Sore Loser Than Initially Thought!

Uncommon Descent links to an interview with Lawrence Krauss regarding his reflections on his debate (and I use the term lightly since it was more of a demolition of Krauss) with William Lane Craig.

So apparently accomplished physicists now, as well as not being able to understand Bayesian probability theory, also have to personally denigrate a colleague who thrashes them in the arena of ideas and debate. He also has gained the ability to search someone's motives and label them as evil and malicious within a debate and give that as the reason he looked like a moron.

Yes, people. Lawrence Krauss says WLC was disingenuous, and Campus Crusade for Christ had malicious evil intents in trapping him with an impossible debate question. MUAHAHAHAAAAAAAHHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!

Oh....er, sorry. My evil inner Christian came out.

Krauss is acting like a small child who lost the playground game and is now calling foul. Wow. Well there's your intellectual atheist folks, and your typical establishment elite college professor (see Barack Hussein Obama and Paul Krugmann for comparison). At least they're useful for a practical lesson and a good laugh.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What Makes one Catholic..err catholic?

This is a Facebook discussion I had earlier with a Roman Catholic who is a contributor to the blog Called to Communion. For the sake of forthrightness, my wife is Roman Catholic. As you'll see, I think Christians can disagree on doctrinal points and not be separated.

This is the post that generated the discussion.


Bryan Cross: I have explained why making a predicate apply to everyone (such as claiming that all Christians are catholics) evacuates the term of all meaning here in comment #40:
http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/07/commentaries-not-included/comment-page-1/#comment-1831

Me: But that's how the early fathers used the word, Bryan.

Bryan Cross: They didn't use the word 'catholic' of schismatics.
If you want to read what I have written about apostolic succession in the Church Fathers, see here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/11/sola-scriptura-a-dialogue-between-michael-horton-and-bryan-cross/#ApostolicSuccession

Me: Of course not, because schismatics then weren't viewed as Christians. Heretics, it's pretty clear, were non-Christians. The Arians had stepped beyond the veil of essentials, to put it in modern Protestant vernacular.

I consider modern Roman Catholics as properly catholic, as I do Anglicans, Lutherans, Baptists, and Eastern Orthodox because they don't hold to heretical views, ie views that would take them outside of Christianity. Ergo, they are all catholic, but not all Roman Catholic.

Course the middle of my web of doctrine, the essentials, is pretty small. FYI, the official Roman Catholic stance on the issue is that Protestants are "separated brethren". Their semantics are different than mine and Michael's, but the idea is the same.

Bryan Cross: Do you agree with St. Optatus on schism?http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/06/st-optatus-on-schism-and-the-bishop-of-rome/

Separated brethren are still in schism. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/2089.htm

Me: Again, using different semantics, Bryan. Anyone who proclaims Christ as Lord and has the Holy Spirit are in communion in my mind. Ergo RCs and Protestants are in spiritual communion. The man made idea of communion, belonging to a specific institution, is a different issue. I think the fathers would agree, and that's why they set boundaries in the councils.

Bryan Cross: That's because you believe Christ founded only an invisible Church, while for Catholics, (and the Church Fathers, e.g. St. Cyprian, St. Optatus, St. Augustine) Christ founded a visible Church.

Me: No I don't, but thanks for putting words in my mouth. The church is visible in the One we proclaim, and in the works that we do. Upon that rock Christ founded the church. ;-)

Bryan Cross: If there were no visible Church, but only visible Christians, what would be different?

Me: The Church is the Christians.

Bryan Cross: I have explained why Protestantism has no visible catholic Church here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/09/why-protestantism-has-no-visible-catholic-church/

Me: I'll try to read that at some point, but it seems to me you're just begging the question with regard to what the church is. Why can't I say that the RC institution is just Rites, priests, bishops, and Popes, and not a true visible Church? The logic seems the same.

Bryan Cross: Because an organizational unity is something different from a mere conceptual unity [e.g. the set of all Christians]. Tom Brown and I have explained why the Church cannot be merely the set of all Christians, in our article "Christ Founded a Visible Church."
http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/christ-founded-a-visible-church/

Me: Is it Bryan? What makes the Catholic unity organizational and not just conceptual. Looks like a distinction without difference to me. Because at base, organization is pretty dependent on how we're conceiving of something, which again would make your assertion question begging.. [I realize he's trying to get at the Philosophical concept of what is a proper entity with regard to its constituent parts. The problem he has is that he's begging the question for his view, saying that the protestants aren't composed in the proper manner. My point is trying to get him to see that his "proper composition" of Popes, rites, bishops, etc is no less arbitrary a standard to consider a composed church than is individual believers who have the Holy Spirit. That's why we have to rely on divine revelation to tell us what the church is (1 Corinthians 12:13)]

[The protestant view seems to be supported] by the stress of the Greek word translated into church. Literally, "an assembly" or "called-out ones."

Bryan Cross: Here's an example. A set of atoms scattered around is not a genuine unity, but is rather plurality conceived as a unity (i.e. a set), whereas the set of atoms that composes your body comprise an actual unity, i.e. you.

Me: I agree. Now, why shouldn't one conceive of the body of believers as that unity of atoms?

Bryan, I can't go read through all of your blog posts regarding the issue and get back to you with prompt replies. It makes the discussion too cumbersome. Can you give me your summarized versions of your arguments?

Bryan Cross: I don't need prompt replies, and I don't have time to summarize them in FB chatboxes. I need to get back to work. This issue isn't capable of being worked out in a 30 minute chat session - it takes a long time to read then think about all this. Thanks for talking.

Me: In the meantime, my Biblical argument would start with 1 Cor 12:13.

So no response to my last post? Why should we consider individual men which constitute an institution known as the Roman Catholic Magesterium as properly "THE CHURCH ®" and not consider individual men (and women) who believe in Christ as "the Church"?

I don't see how your argument has any footing.

BTW, I read your post, and it's just relying on your question begging assumption. It's how you're conceiving of what the Church is. It's a semantic and definitional difference, and I don't see it supported in the idea of what the church is set forth by the apostles.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Palin is Such a Dummy....Ohhhh.......



Clip includes some profanity. HT to hotair.com.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Properly Basically Hot

Somebody's air conditioner went out, and as a properly basic experience, he was hot...



Hat tip to Matt Palumbo.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Increase in the Atheist Fringe

I finally caught up to the most recent Reasonable Faith podcast, and on it Kevin Harris brings up some good points about how atheists have begun to act, not just online but in academic settings as well. Case in point, the questions that were asked in the Craig/Harris debate Q&A session. Apparently a local atheist group crowded the mics at the debate and asked really poor questions, many of which had nothing to do with the debate. One moron went on a tangent about God appearing to him and whatnot, and basically made a big fool of himself.

Harris' poor debate behavior was also an issue, as he really avoided the issue in much of what he said and just focused on getting his pet peeves out while he had a bully pulpit. Thinking atheists everywhere should be ashamed of what happened, and I think some are. But you sure don't see it on any of the infidel websites out there.

You see this happening in most of the blogs that deal with the issue of God's existence in their comment sections as well. A mixture of attempted one-upmanship mixed with irrelevant tangents and ad hominem attacks come forth from the internet infidel fingers. Even once respectable atheist blogs themselves have begun to devolve into Dick Dawk-esque rhetoric.

So I'll repeat the question Harris asked in his interview with Craig; is this what you atheists want? Do you want to ignore the issues, the arguments, the ideas that need to be discussed and grappled with, or do you just want to strike emotional chords and rhetorical victories and achieve your "you're no Jack Kennedy" moment? Is that what atheism is becoming? Because that's not reasonable or intelligent, it's dogmatic and dishonest. What happened to your quest for truth?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

In the Meantime

I haven't posted in a while, but I hope to get back in the groove soon. In the meantime enjoy this promo for William Lane Craig's Great Britian tour, and plea for Richard Dawkins to friggin' man up.




HT Unbelievable

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Removed Intense Debate Client

Because of the bugginess of the intense debate client, I have removed it. I apologize, because with it goes a lot of comments. However, it was preventing me from commenting on my own blog, so it had to go.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger's Technical Difficulties

Apparently Blogger had some issues yesterday. I think that may have been the reason the comment client was so buggy. I'm keeping it for now, but as someone has pointed out using the reply function can make things more confusing than it's worth. Those commenting and replying to comments just use the new comment box at the bottom of the thread. Don't reply unless it's pretty short. It'll make conversations easier.

Friday, May 6, 2011

God's Outta Time!!!

A combox discussion caught my eye. I don't have time to read through the whole thing, but the issue of time came up and God's relation to it especially regarding whether His omniscience implies divine determination. I've shown here why that isn't the case. However, to counter the claim that a future time must be already existent for God to know it, and therefore it is already existing, which means that free will doesn't exist, the Arminian in the discussion felt it was necessary to say that God is outside of time.

I've seen this a lot from Arminians when confronted with this argument. However, I think there's a much stronger retort to this deterministic assertion. Pulling God outside of time isn't necessary to defeat the determinist assertion that divine omniscience implies divine determination. Rather, one simply needs to see God's omniscience as innate. As an omniscient being, God knows only and all true propositions. So say God knows that at 12:00 tomorrow, I will go to Chick Fil' A for lunch and enjoy a tasty chicken delight. Does that event have to exist in a concrete way or be determined for God to know about it? Not if He has knowledge of only and all true propositions. That fact alone means that, if the scenario is in fact going to be true, that God knows it.

So the answer to the claim that event E must exist to know the truth of event E is simply an assertion. It seems patently false that a being that knows all true propositions must have that knowledge based on the actuality of the event itself actually existing in that concrete manner.

PS, this is really just the grounding objection re-stated in a different context. I've shown why that objection doesn't seem to hold too much water here and in the comments here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Viral Representative's Argument for Homosexual Marriage

No, this isn't about a sick representative, nor is the modifier "Viral" meant to demean him. Rather, the video I am critiquing has gone viral. State Rep. Steve Simon of Minnesota gives a little speech in the midst of debate on whether to put on the state ballot a measure that would amend their state constitution to prohibit homosexual marriage (*cough* oxymoron *cough*). Oooh, look at that. Liz Goodwin of Yahoo news calls the speech "eloquent" and "impassioned." Wowee zowee this must be something else then, right? Uh, no...


Right from the beginning, he asserts that we shouldn't rely on a religious argument. Why is the religious argument invalid (hint: because it doesn't agree with him)? He never extrapolates on this. Whether or not this country is a "Christian" nation or whatnot, it derives its freedoms from a divine source, and sets laws up around those. Marriage laws are of a certain interest to the state, and giving benefits to homosexual couples doesn't fit into the state interest.

At about 1:00, he states there's scientific data that sexual orientation is fundamentally genetic. First, there's absolutely no evidence that that is the case. Second, it's irrelevant to whether the state should actively support and endorse homosexual unions. There are known addictions and diseases that may have genetic roots, ie alcoholism and schizophrenia. In the case of the former, the government doesn't introduce legislation to encourage alcoholism because it makes some people emotionally fulfilled. Furthermore, people can choose to act against their alcoholism, as they can choose to not have sex. In the case of the latter, we medicate people who have this most likely genetic aberration. Simply saying you're born with something doesn't do anything to show it should be endorsed by the state.

At about 1:20, he asks about the moral implications if God were the one who determined people's homosexual proclivity, which is funny, because he stated 1 minute before that we shouldn't use a religious argument here. Obviously, he just meant the traditional and Biblical religious argument. But a liberal and pagan religious argument is clearly just dandy.

If one concedes that homosexual orientation is God given and innate, then it would have to be considered natural and therefore not a sin. I do not concede this, however, and the onus is on the the dear Representative to show us that God does in fact do that. Even if he could show that, something not being a sin doesn't therefore show that the state should actively endorse the behavior.

From the biological observation, as well as nearly all purported revelation from God, homosexuality is anything but natural. There's certainly no biological benefit from it. That being the case, there seems to be no benefit to the state in terms of continuing the species, which is the main reason they have an interest in marriage. In fact, it looks to me that homosexuality would be detrimental to the society simply because it would result in fewer children. But I digress.

At 1:30, he simply asserts that God is creating people as gay, and that this proves God approves of gayness. Of course he did nothing to show this at all. Then morons in the crowd who apparently can't think applaud. That's right, drink that kool-aid.

1:50, continues with his unsupported argument. Nothing eloquent or spectacular in the least about this segment. Frankly, it's pretty unspectacular.

I want to emphasise how absolutely silly this is. The guy starts by saying that the religious arguments shouldn't be considered because that's not our heritage, and then he gives almost solely a religious argument. I am baffled at how this video has gone viral. I suppose it shows the lack of the majority of the population to think logically about things. Lord Jesus, please help us.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Pagan?

If you've interacted at all with internet atheist types, then you've run across the old canard that Easter is derived from a pagan ritual. I've never really known what the big deal is, unless they're trying to imply that Jesus never existed and this ritual somehow morphed into what it is today, which is highly implausible, and not even remotely suggested by the majority of historians. It would more than likely be scoffed at.

However, I was curious as to whether Christian did co-opt a pagan ritual to celebrate Christ's resurrection. This article disputes the claim.

The author makes these points:

  1. Even if Christians did co-opt the celebration, so fllippin what? Christians have often tried to redeem the cultures they lived in, and if they took over this so that they could celebrate Christ's resurrection, more power to them.
  2. The earliest claim we have that Easter was derived from a pagan fertility goddess worship ritual is from the 8th century by the Venerable Bede. The culture he was speaking of, however, was converted relatively late to Christianity, and so if Easter was celebrated prior to those dates, Bede's account of Eostre is insignificant. There is in fact evidence that Christians celebrated Easter by the second century.
  3. Professor Ronald Hutton has criticized Bede's sketchy knowledge of supposed pagan rituals, and says that he makes a mistake with Eostre as well.
  4. There is no evidence outside of Bede's account that would support the claim that the pagan goddess Eostre existed.
  5. The name "Easter" was more likely derived from the latin phrase "in albis ("in white")which Christians used in reference to Easter week, found its way into Old High German as eostarum, or 'dawn.'"
  6. The title of the celebration has never been the issue. It is what we are celebrating that is the issue.
Praise God for He is risen!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trying New Comment Client

I'm trying out the Intense Debate comment client to see how it goes. It seems to be more streamlined than the blogger default. Let me know what you think.

The Aftermath of Craig Destroys Harris

Wow. I want to preface this post by saying how glad I am to be within the tradition of Christian philosophy and apologetics.

Out of curiosity, I meandered on over to a few atheist blogs to see what they were saying about the debate. Several of the big ones are, for lack of a better way to put it, in simple denial. 


Take this post at a blog called The Uncredible Hallq. This individual says he is a philosophy graduate, which means he ought to know better. Yet he spends almost 2,000 words praising Harris and denigrating Dr. Craig's honesty and ability as a philosopher. I see a lot of bluster, a lot of personal jabs at Dr. Craig, but no substance. No reason why Craig's arguments were bad, or how Harris had refuted any of them. Do none of the Harris fans have the ability to see that his rebuttal was one long red herring? If this is the state of atheism now, I'm glad to not be a part of it. Furthermore, he says Craig relies on rhetoric to win his debates. And this Hallq guy is supposed to be a philosophy graduate? Does he not realize when someone has left the issue up for debate? Has he not heard of a red herring?

Regarding Craig's rhetoric, Steve Hays at Triablogue had something to say about that:

[W]hile Craig is a fine debater, he also lacks some of the virtues of a great public speaker. He doesn’t have a great speaking voice. He’s not an eloquent wordsmith. He’s not a spellbinding storyteller. He can’t manipulate the emotions of the audience the way a great preacher or actor can.

So, in some fundamental respects, he’s overrated as a debater. You can’t chalk up his winning streak to oratory alone.

Philosophy is really, at base, becoming good at thinking about and making good sound arguments. A debate showcases in a spoken format two people giving arguments for a specific position. Craig not only gave a positive case for his position, but refuted Harris' case. Harris spent his rebuttal period insulting Christianity and religious people and saying religion leads to evil. But he never defended his case after Craig had refuted it.

This philosophy major doesn't make his alma matter's philosophy department look very appealing if this is the quality of thinker they are producing.

As I said at the beginning, I am so glad to be square in the middle of a renaissance in Christian philosophy and apologetics. I am so glad that I don't have to shirk reason to hold the views that I do. I'm so glad I'm not reduced to defending an indefensible position, and cheer-leading for someone who was utterly unable to defend his view that he spend so long putting into book form. If this is what it takes to be an atheist, thank God I'm not one.

BTW, I made the hasty decision to post a part of this on John Loftus' blog, which may have been a mistake, haha. I will enable moderation for a while.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Craig Destroys Harris

So the debate is over. I tweeted along with it instead of doing it here, so you can check what I and others said as the debate progressed here.

Craig demolished Harris, who was unable to refute Craig's devastating critique of his version of utilitarianism. Craig showed how 1) God provides a sound foundation for morality and, 2) that without God, no sound ground of morality would exist. He pointed out that Harris was simply redefining morality to be identical to human well being, but Craig not only showed how this was entirely insufficient and arbitrary, but also how it was logically incoherent. Harris really blew it by completely ignoring the topic of the debate in his second speech and just talking about completely irrelevant red herrings. I don't even think that Harris' vaunted rhetorical mind games were that impressive. Sure you can call God a big fat meanie pants, but you just start sounding bitter.

Another great showing for Dr. Craig, and great for theism that all four stooges of atheism have been  eviscerated by such a keen mind. To God go the glory.

Brian at Apologetics 315 has posted the audio of the debate.

Reviews of the debate:

http://randyeverist.blogspot.com/2011/04/review-of-craig-vs-harris-debate.html

http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/audio-and-summary-of-the-william-lane-craig-vs-sam-harris-debate/

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gary Habermas on NDE's

Brian over at apologetics 315 linked to a talk Gary Habermas did on NDE's a couple of years ago. Very interesting.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why Discoveries in Neuroscience are not a Problem for Substance Dualists

Modern discoveries in neuroscience are exciting and fascinating. Recent discoveries have given great insight in how the brain works and processes information. Different regions of the brain have been shown to process different emotions and physical stimuli. But introduce these fascinating discoveries into an increasingly materialistic society and one gets interesting metaphysical claims. Many people simply assume that science has put the philosophical stance of substance dualism (aka Cartesian dualism or Platonic dualism, etc) to rest. Look, you can damage the brain and totally change the way a person acts. Or you can stimulate a part of the brain and cause sensations that look like religious experience. Or you can split the brain down the middle and get interesting results. This proves that the brain simply is the mind, or the mind is a phenomena that is purely caused by the physical relations of the neurons and chemicals that make up the brain, doesn't it?

Well no. In fact, this is blatantly fallacious reasoning of the type that John Polkinghorne has called "confused nonsense" (in a response to a question about Daniel Wegner's claims to have disproved dualism and free will here). What we see in neurobiology is correlations between certain states of the brain and certain states of the mind. When a person thinks of a pleasant thought, a certain part of the brain undergoes a chemical reaction. Does this show that that chemical reaction just is the pleasant thought? Well no. Does it show that the chemical reaction is what caused the pleasant thought? No, it actually looks like the pleasant thought caused the chemical reaction.

The problem here is that some have tried to take a correlation between two events, the brain event and the mind event, and equate them. In other words, to say that the brain is identical to the mind. This kind of reasoning can simply never work. Correlation is never enough to show identity or causation. Therefore it is intellectually irresponsible to proudly assert that neurobiology has made mind/body dualism passé. It has done no such thing.

As an aside, this metaphysical confusion has led to other weird reasoning, such as in the field of artificial intelligence. Some people think that at some point we will program a self conscious machine. Get enough electrical connections together in the right configuration and *poof* a new sentient being. While certain theological convictions keep me from thinking this could happen (I think God has an intimate role in crafting the soul and placing it in the body), I also lack any convincing reasoning from strong AI theorists that would entail that configurations of matter are enough to produce conscious, self-introspective, thinking things. The fact that a machine may at some point mimic human behavior doesn't mean that it is experiencing human behavior.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Emotions Within a Rational Christianity

I've been pondering lately what role emotions play in our rational acceptance of Jesus of Nazareth as our Lord and Savior. This is a bit of what I've come up with.

Emotions aren't bad or don't lead to inherent irrationality if they aren't doing our thinking for us. If one is thinking clearly, then emotional reactions may be the most rational thing to come out of the process. If our emotions are the reason we are making decisions, ie if we decide the doctrine of hell is false because it makes us feel icky, then we're reasoning irrationally.

The crucifixion should evoke a very strong emotional reaction in the Christian if they are being rational. It has driven me to tears many times, and it always evokes a sense of great thankfulness and joy in knowing what my God did to resolve my rebellion. It is very rational to react in such a way when a Person who is not just innocent, but morally perfect and worship-worthy, dies a physically and spiritually excruciating death for your crimes. Anything less than an emotional reaction would be irrational.

Likewise anger at ideas and individuals should crop up in the Christian when the One who did this for us is blasphemed, whether through false doctrines or in denying His reality.

Worship should naturally flow from us not just because of what God has done, but also for who He is. He is the creator, the ultimate reality. He is the very source of goodness, and we exist because of Him and for Him.

My final thought in this post is that the Bible constantly records people of God reacting emotionally to different things. People reacted to the gospel with joy (Acts 13:52). Jesus Himself reacted in anger at people defiling the temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; John 2:13-22), and He wept when His friend Lazarus died (John 11:35). God created us with emotions to aid in our reasoning. He placed within us the ability to feel joy for His gifts and to become saddened and angry at the state that sin has put the world in. There's nothing wrong with being an emotional person, as long as you're doing so rationally and Biblically.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Is, Ought, and God

I ran across this somewhere on the internet, but I can't find it again to credit the person for it. I thought it was very simple, yet fairly profound. Some wonder how God would solve the is-ought problem in ethics. There are several good answers to this from prominent philosophers of religion, but this one I think is pretty simple and seems so obvious.

God is omniscient, meaning He knows only and all true propositions. This would include propositions about what we ought to do. For instance, the proposition, "you ought to follow Jesus," would be known by God in light of Him being omniscient. Whether we can actually figure out why that proposition is true is separate from the fact that we can know it's true because it was stated by God.

So, we can know what we ought to do if God tells us.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The "New Atheism"

So I just wanted to highlight this comment, which was on a post entirely unrelated to its content, for instructive purposes and for the lulz.

kilo papa said...
Just wondering when you might do a post on how the central doctrine of your religion-the offering of blood from a barbaric human sacrifice up to the invisible man in the sky-is not the single most disgusting,
revolting,sickening,evil,Stone Age,Cro-Magnon,absurd,immoral bunch of lunacy that the human mind has ever concocted in the entire history of mankinds existence on this earth?

Did the multitude of cultures that practiced this inane garbage long before your Jesus appeared have the right idea but just had the wrong guy?

If there is a god somewhere, s/he is surely either astoundingly embarrassed or else laughing her/his ass off at deluded morons like yourself.

Is is truly possible that your deluded mind really doesn't realize how stupefyingly ridiculous that your religious belief is?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bell Hell?

Recently, there has been an intramural evangelical internet flame war (I think that should be the name of a sporting event) regarding Rob Bell's newest promo video and the comments made by some about that video and Bell's fidelity, or lack thereof, to the orthodox teaching on hell, and the comments questioning whether those comments were justified based solely on the promo video, and not on the book the video was promoting (since it hasn't been released yet). Look at what this has done to even me. It's caused me to publish this terrible run-on sentence!

Joking aside, I must say I'm pretty sympathetic to the Calvinists on this one. 1) Bell has given ample reason in the past to doubt his adherence to orthodoxy. 2) He's taught patently bad theology in his Numa videos and basically said that it wouldn't matter if Jesus hadn't really raised from the dead or hadn't really been born of a virgin in one of his books.

To point out this seeming lean toward universalism even before the release of the book isn't necessarily bad. Could the way the rhetoric was formulated have been better? Perhaps a couple of them could have toned it down a bit and been a bit more charitable, saying something like, "watch out because it looks like Bell could be promoting universalism here," or something, instead of condemning him to hell. However, some of the responses haven't been too spiffy either.

Bell has no one more to blame than himself for this situation. As Michael Patton points out, even if he doesn't hold to universalism, he released that silly video that gives the impression that he does. Look at what this dishonesty has done in causing separation among brethren (Jude 18-19). That alone should tell you something about Bell.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Settling for a Branch

Many atheists, when trying to ground moral values, appeal to something like human well being as a guide for morality. This seems to be patently insufficient of a ground for morals, because it itself is simply a moral judgment. It is good to promote human well being and bad to stifle it is a moral value itself, and therefore can't be the ground of moral values. As I said to one commenter on Sam Harris' attempt to use this as a ground, "Saying that well-being of some sort is good is simply another moral claim, so it hasn't reached any sort of ontological base at all. If this is Harris' base, then he seems to have stopped short of a true ground for morality and settled for a branch. [In other words] you can't say that a moral value is itself the ground of moral value."

This is why most attempts at ethics today are silly little exercises in futility.

Modern Science Rejects Teleology

So I'm picking on my ethics teacher again, which may turn into quite a habit for the next 12 weeks or so. This statement (the title of this post) was one of the supposed problems with Thomas Aquinas' natural law theory. My teacher really didn't argue for this assertion. How has Science done this?

Is it because it can now explain how things work? What does that have to do with whether they have an end they were designed for?

It seems to me that this is just an assumption that flows from, at least, methodological naturalism. But even if you accept that science can't access the reason for which something was created, but can only tell us how it was created/works, it certainly doesn't follow that it wasn't created for some reason.

Not to mention that this seems to be patently untrue anyway. Certain fields of science seem to make their living on detecting teleology. Archaeologists do this often.

I must say, some things my prof. states don't seem very well thought out, and when I challenge him he seems incapable of 1) listening without interrupting and 2) understanding what I'm talking about (though I suppose this could be my fault). He's not a dumb guy in the least. I don't get it. I thought this stuff I talk about all the time was pretty well known in philosophy departments...I guess not.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Justin Bieber Will be Attacked

I'd never heard about the kid until recently. Chalk it up to me not keeping up on the teen pop scene. But someone that makes as much money as he does is bound to be heard of by most people at some point, so yes I am vaguely familiar with him.

Well this kid has more in the way of below the waist spherical objects than most adults in his profession, not being scared at all to give his opinion on abortion. In a Rolling Stone interview he says, "I really don’t believe in abortion...It’s like killing a baby?" (The question mark is apparently maybe being unsure, or maybe it's rhetorical in the way teens typically talk). He also didn't back down when asked about his thoughts on the issue in the case of rape. Of course he's going to be maligned and drug through the mud until he "clarifies" his position, which I assume his agent or someone working around him will convince him to do. But I hold out hope for the young man, and will pray for God to give him strength to stand up for this position in the face of the impending media pounding (which has already started).

On a more negative Bieber note, he jokingly called Americans who think people should have control over their own health care by keeping the purse strings to themselves "evil." Being anti abortion is a tad stronger than being stupid on health care, so we'll say he's slightly above water at this point.

BONUS!!!

Now we'll get to listen to a bunch of poorly conceived, emotionally charged, non-rational arguments for abortion for the next week or so on every station imaginable. YAY!

Are JL Mackie's Arguments Against Objective Moral Values Any Good?

In my ethics class, we talked about JL Mackie's short essay The Subjectivity of Values. My teacher, while not seeming to be impressed by the first argument I'll go over, did indicate that we could consider the other two as pretty good. I've found that my teacher and I differ pretty greatly on what constitutes a good argument. I'll go over the formulations my teacher presented and critique them here.

Argument from relativity


P1. Moral values vary from culture to culture, from time period to time period, and from class to class in the same society.
P2. Radical differences in normative values cast doubt on the objectivity of moral values.
C.  Therefore, there is good reason to think that moral values are subjective.

My first thought about this argument is that it's hard to see how it's even valid. Seems to me that the most we can say from these two premises is C' There is reason to think that moral values are subjective. Why should even radical differences give us good reason to doubt objective morality? It certainly doesn't follow from the premises in a strict literal sense.

Premise one seems to be subtly begging the question for subjectivism. The objectivist would say that moral values don't vary from these cultures, though cultural norms, which may or may not line up with whatever objective morality may exist, could vary in this way. It would be more correct to say that what cultures hold to be the correct moral values may vary from culture to culture, etc.

The objectivist could also say about premise one that it is blatantly false. Though some values may differ from culture to culture, there seem to be some that not only do transcend cultural lines, but are necessary for the survival of a culture (ie the culture would cease to exist in time if something like murder or lying were thought to be morally good). These would be the moral values. They could pass the others off as values of taste.

Premise 2 also seems to be very weak. Who says that differences of these sorts should cast doubt on objective morality? Just because people are behaving badly we ought not to think that they are actually behaving badly? That's ridiculous. Differences in moral behavior doesn't really seem to entail anything with regard to whether moral values are an ontological reality.

So, this argument not only doesn't seem to be sound, but also seems to be invalid, at least in the form given by my teacher. But he didn't really have much good to say about this one either.

Metaphysical argument from queerness


P1. If moral values were objective, then we would expect there to be moral properties out in the world.
P2. There are no moral properties out in the world (for such properties would be very queer and utterly unlike ordinary properties like heaviness, roundness, or numbers).
C. Therefore, moral values are not objective.

While I tend to agree with the first premise, there are objectivists who would classify objective morality in other ways, though I'm not entirely sure how that would work.

Premise two, I think, is really bad. First off, how does something being odd, strange, queer, weird, unlike something else, whatever you want to call it, entail its non existence? The quantum physical world is extremely strange. Does that mean we should doubt its existence?

Furthermore, Mackie is simply stacking the deck here by classifying things so that his argument goes through. Who says that moral properties are queer? Who says they are weirder and utterly unlike the other properties listed? Frankly, you can say that any property listed there is unlike the other. Roundness is not like heaviness in pretty profound ways. Likewise, numbers, as abstract objects, are also extremely strange in the minds of most philosophers. Unless one holds to some sort of reductionist materialism I don't see any reason to support the contention that one of these types of properties is queer to the point that we should start to question its existence.

Epistemological argument from queerness


P1. If there were moral properties in the world, then we would need a separate faculty from perception to detect them.
P2. We do not seem to have such a faculty.
P3. So, even if there are moral properties in the world, we can't know that.
C. Therefore, it is not reasonable to believe that moral values are objective.

I first off would begin by questioning the way premise one is worded. I assume when my prof. says "perception," being a product of latent positivism in the establishment philosophy departments, he means physical perception. What we perceive with our five senses. He needs to make that clear, since I would say there is moral forms or perception, similar to how there is a logical perception (perceiving the logical status of an argument for instance). But, if he means physical perception, then I would agree with premise one.

Premise two is ridiculous. I wonder if Mackie actually ever went outside his office. Moral perception is something that we encounter every day. You can't help but have a moral feeling/perception/sense about anything you hear about. You can simply sit there and think of a moral situation, say someone brutally beating a woman for trying to learn how to read, and immediately and irrepressibly you have a moral sense about that act. Somewhat like your physical senses, it forces itself upon you whether you like it or not. I think it's eminently clear that we have a faculty that picks up on the moral properties some act has. I think Mackie's materialism is undergirding this claim. Because our moral sense doesn't act on a strictly material level, it simply can't be true. But I think our moral sense is more obvious than our physical senses, because there doesn't have to be any sort of external stimuli to judge the moral status of an act, because you can imagine an act in a dark room and your moral sense will react to it. I have no more reason to question my moral sense than I do my physical senses.

Premise three relies on premise two.

My teacher seemed to think that both of the queerness arguments were pretty good here. But I don't think so at all. I honestly wonder where he's coming from, because these arguments, to me, rely on a vary large amount of unbacked assumptions and really are pretty poor. This makes me want to get into a philosophy department in a university or something even more, so I can give another perspective other than this latent assumed naturalism in university philosophy departments. If my Lord is willing, maybe I will!

Why anyone takes Mackie's subjectivism seriously is beyond me.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Yeah, I went there

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Posts Coming Soon

My brief lull in posts will come to an end fairly soon. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is Christianity 7 Times Incoherent?

This is a response in part to this post.

1.
Is it consistent to say that a perfect being would create something? A perfect being has no needs or wants, so how could he need or want to create a world and populate it with beings and demand worship and sacrifice from them?

Ambiguity out the wazoo here. You simply assert this without argument as well. Does a perfect being need anything for His existence? No. Obviously not.

Can a perfect being want things? Why not? It isn't impeding His perfection. It has no impact on His power. All it seems to point to is a volitional will. I say your assertion that a want is a sign of imperfection is false.

Does a perfect being require certain things of His creation? If those can be construed as needs, in that regard, I say that a perfect being needing certain things is not an issue either. Next.

2.
Is it consistent to say that an unchangeable being would create something? If God is unchangeable, then he can’t have one set of intentions at one moment and then a new set of intentions at another. And yet God supposedly created at one time, but now doesn’t have the intention to create a universe, because he did it already. The idea of an unchangeable God that creates is incoherent.

On Christian theism, there was never a *TIME* when God changed in His decision to create something. Think back hard, Luke, hard to the Kalam argument and its nuances, like how there was no time without creation. There was no moment when He didn't have the intention to create. Also, even if my first response fails, if God had the intention, “to create the universe and then not create anything else” for eternity, then in doing what He did, His intentions never actually changed.

Also, when people speak of the unchanging nature of God, it is His essential attributes and moral nature. God is personal and has intentions and reactions like other personal beings. In that sense, it's not a problem to say God changes. In the sense He has an ultimate plan and impeccable character, those don't change. WLC says God is in time now. This isn't a problem either, unless you can show how changing in the way I have described is a lack of perfection.

3.
Is it consistent to say that an unchangeable being can be omniscient? If God is unchangeable, then his knowledge can’t change. And yet what is true changes all the time, for example what is true about my age. So an unchanging being can’t be omniscient.

It's like you're not even trying here. Omniscience is knowledge of only and all true propositions. In that sense, God's "now" knowledge is changing, assuming He is in time (and might I remind you, Luke, that as a B theorist, it seems hard to actually see how you hold that things are changing in that way). God, at this moment, knows only and all true propositions. One of those is "Atheist Luke is now x years old." God still knows that "last year Atheist Luke was x years old." As I pointed out in number 2, it's hard to see how this is a problem with the ambiguity stripped from the assertion.

4.
Is it consistent to say that God is transcendent and omnipresent? To be transcendent is to be nowhere in space, but to be omnipresent is to be everywhere in space.

Who is to say God isn't both? If omnipresence is to exist everywhere (even though you are being ungenerous even in that definition) then God would exist everywhere in the universe and anywhere that is beyond the universe as well. Say He created other universes, or in a separate realm of reality altogether as Hugh Ross argues. His power and influence are immediately present in all of those places. Another non issue.

5.
Is it consistent to say that God is transcendent and yet acts in time? To be transcendent is to be beyond space and time, so a transcendent being can’t also be immanent in space and time.

Being transcendent doesn't entail not being able to act within that which you transcend. It simply shows you aren't constrained to that realm. Next.

6.
Is it consistent to say that God is omniscient and has free will? If God knows all the actions he will perform, then he cannot do otherwise, and therefore he is not free.

Fail fail fail. Why determinists (both theists and non-theists) and open theists continue to use this line of argumentation is beyond me, when it's quite clearly fallacious. It is modally fallacious, transferring necessity where it isn't warranted by the rules of logic, as I show here.

7.
Is it consistent to say that God is all-merciful and all-just? A perfectly just person treats every offender with exactly the severity he or she deserves, but an all-merciful person treats every offender with less severity than he or she deserves. What sense does it make to say that God is all-merciful and all-just?

Maybe you've heard of something called the cross of Christ...ring a bell, Luke? Place where God's justice and mercy meet? God is just in that His wrath is assuaged by the willing sacrifice of His perfect Son, and His mercy is shown by taking the sins and punishment of humanity on Himself, and then imputes His righteousness to us? Yeah, that one. Perfectly just and perfectly merciful.

That is one reason why Christianity is the only coherent form of theism.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. If Christians want to say their worldview is logically consistent, they certainly have their work cut out for them putting together a concept of God that is logically consistent.

No, these were all answered quite a while ago. It seems like you just aren't being serious anymore.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Singing With Jesus

One of my relatives uploaded some of my late grandfather's music to Youtube. He was a passionate and devoted pastor and evangelist with the Free Methodist church for many years. Truly a rare and precious man who now sings with his Savior.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Grounding God's Knowing

Many determinists and open theists object to free will coexisting with exhaustive foreknowledge on the basis that God's foreknowledge of events implies that He has predetermined the event. They say that God can't know a future event in an undetermined world, but could only know probabilities of future events. They say that God either knows the future because He determined it, or because it is determined by the physical state of affairs as they currently are.

I've never thought that either of these were compelling. I've really never seen a determinist or open theist
argue for either point. They seem to simply assume it. Why can't God know future things simply as part of Him being omniscient? If omniscience is the knowledge of all true proposition, then it seems inherent in the definition that God knows future events without needing to deduce them from current physical states of affairs or personally determining them Himself. Not only that, but that definition seems to include counterfactual states of affairs as well; what things would be like if certain things are different. But it seems to me that, at least on the second option (deducing from current states), God cannot know these propositions, since they don't obtain in this particular world.

William Lane Craig has pointed out that this objection rests on the assumption that a certain form of truth-maker theory is correct. He argues that the person offering this objection can't simply assume something that controversial without arguing for it. I haven't seen an argument to make me think that these CCF's absolutely need to be grounded in the way the objector wants them to be. As Plantinga says, "It seems to me much clearer that some counterfactuals of freedom are at least possibly true than that the truth of propositions must, in general, be grounded in this way."

However, the determinist and open theist also seems to be unaware of the good attempts by libertarian free willers to give a ground to this knowledge. Alfred Freddoso has given such an argument. As Freddoso says, "it seems reasonable to claim that there are now adequate metaphysical grounds for the truth of conditional future contingent Ft(P) on H just in case there would be adequate metaphysical grounds at t for the truth of the present-tense proposition p on the conditions that H should obtain at t."1 In other words, the metaphysical ground for the truth of a counerfactual proposition is not that the event actually exists, but that it would exist if the certain state of affairs were the case. This parallels the grounding of the truth of future propositions. It is either true or false that my Chiefs will win on Sunday. The truth depends on what actually will occur at that time. That is how it is grounded.

Even if this account fails, the objector still needs to give us a reason for why God's knowledge needs to be grounded like this before it is to succeed.

For more on this, see here and here and here and here.


1 Freddoso, Alfred, On divine foreknowledge: (part IV of the Concordia). Cornell Univ Pr, 2004. Print. 72.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What Does it Mean?

Hey all. It’s great to be back. I had a great Christmas holiday and New Year, and hope you all did too. I hope my atheist readers were convicted by the grace and mercy shown by our God by becoming a man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth for our sake. It is a humbling truth.

I was asked by a commenter to look at this post over at Common Sense Atheism, which is part of a larger project of critiquing William Lane Craig’s work on the absurdity of life without God. I must say, I haven’t been very interested in the content over there lately. While I was initially impressed by Luke’s ability to think more deeply about issues than most atheists I have encountered online and his superb ability to catalog resources both for and against his position, his deconversion account and his seeming unwillingness or inability to respond to objections to his arguments has been a turn off. He seems to be devolving into nothing better than another “new-Atheist” with the same type of ridiculous vitriol. That just gets boring. But since this was a request, I’ll take a look.

Luke starts by citing philosopher Steve Maitzen. Luke says that Maitzen complains that Craig has not defined what “ultimate” means in his chapter on the issue in Reasonable Faith.  In his first citation of Maitzen, I really don’t see that objection. I do see that Maitzen doesn’t think Craig has sufficiently argued that temporary things don’t have significance. But that isn’t Craig’s argument. He admits that temporary things may have some sort of temporary significance, but the argument is that significance disappears, and amounts to nothing once its influence has passed out of existence. With the death of all thinking things, all significance will have amounted to nothing and have proven to have no significance. Craig spends pages and pages arguing for that.
As far as what ultimate means, I think one of the common dictionary definitions would be appropriate; perhaps “basic or fundamental” (from http://www.merriam-webster.com) or “Representing or exhibiting the greatest possible development or sophistication” (from www.thefreedictionary.com). Life, on the Christian view, has a reason and fundamentally objective purpose to which it was created. A reason implies a reasoner.  The final development of and most sophisticated a person can be is if they are glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. That is why He created us. That is His purpose. And since it is true for all in spite of what anyone thinks, it is objective. Without God, there is no transcendent and necessary being to have this reason for life, and therefore there is no real, ultimate, and objective purpose.

Maitzen is then cited again. He says that he thinks that Craig may mean “unquestionable” when he says “ultimate.” Well to avoid straw men, I think WLC is a better person than I am to answer this question. It seems to me that this isn’t a sufficient definition, but I don’t think it’s important in dealing with the rest of the citation. Maitzen continues,

We know that people often try to make their lives significant by seeking purposes “greater than themselves.” Consider any purpose that might lend significance to an atheist’s life – maybe she devotes her life to feeding starving children. What more noble or more significant purpose could you have, after all? Still, Craig might challenge the atheist on her own terms: how significant is it, really, to postpone for a relatively short time the deaths of particular members of one terrestrial species on a tiny planet orbiting an undistinguished star in a vast, uncaring universe?

That’s true. People do try to invent purpose for their own lives. Craig admits that fact willingly. He says in this post, which may clear a few things up for Luke and Maitzen, “obviously we can have subsidiary purposes and conditional values without God, but my claim is that ultimately nothing really matters if there is no God. It seems to me that there are two pre-requisites to an ultimately meaningful, valuable, and purposeful life, namely, God and immortality, and if God does not exist, then we have neither.” The issue is whether this meaning we invent for ourselves is really objectively meaningful. If it depends entirely on us, then it can’t be. When we die, any meaning we have conjured up for ourselves goes with us. When everyone is dead, there isn’t any meaning. Not only that, all of the meaning we invented hasn’t amounted to anything and hasn’t accomplished or changed the outcome of anything. Everyone is dead and the universe meaninglessly expands into the cold darkness.

So when this rare female atheist that Maitzen mentions decides that feeding starving children is meaningful to her, does that mean that it is really meaningful to feed starving children? No, only to this lady is it meaningful. It’s not meaningful to the kids to feed starving children. What may be meaningful to them is getting fed, but that’s not really meaningful to other people. Of course this is just an example.

Luke then says, “The argument begins with a question like ‘What’s so great about feeding starving children?’ The obvious answer appears to be: ‘It relieves innocent suffering and gives these children a chance to prosper!’... Supposedly, the theist thinks that God’s existence can put a stop to the regress of asking ‘But what’s so great about that?’ But, they say, atheism cannot put a stop to those questions, and thus leads to despair.” He says it is inappropriate for the theist to use this riposte: “Consider the supposed final answer to “What’s so great about that?” that is offered by the theist: ‘Glorifying God and enjoying his presence for ever [sic]!’ But of course this does not stop the question. We can certainly ask of this: ‘What’s so great about that?’”

Here I think Luke has derailed the course of the argument and entered straw man territory.  The question isn’t about why some action is great, it’s about why life has objective meaning. So we could say that the meaning of our lives is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. But it’s silly to ask why that is objectively meaningful. Life has that meaning because God has created it for that purpose. Similarly, words have meaning because we create them for a purpose. To ask why certain words mean certain things beyond that they were simply created for that purpose is silly. They mean that because they were created for the purpose of describing something. God has set us up with an end goal in mind, and that means we have an ultimate meaning. Simple as that.

So, in answer to the questioner who inspired this post in summary form, what do I think of this article by Luke? I think it misses the point.