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.