Why I Don’t Debate Evolution

Is it wise to take up every battle? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes I get asked why I don’t debate evolution. Do I just accept the reigning paradigm and that’s it? It’s a good question and one that deserves an answer.

Let’s start with something. I don’t accept purely naturalistic evolution. That is the idea that there is no God and all that we see came about by chance. I find that position untenable. Fortunately, that is not a scientific position. That is philosophical since science cannot prove or disprove naturalism.

I can also read books written by evolutionists and see criticisms that I think are good criticisms of the theory. However, in light of all of this, I realize that I am a novice in the area and do not know how to debate the topic. I do not understand the terminology that is used and if I was pressed, I could say nothing more on the issues than what I read.

That last part is an exception. If you’re a Christian who reads science and wants to do this, then I have no real problem. I simply ask that you make your argument scientific. It should never be the Bible vs. science. If we do that with our unbelieving friends, then we know which way they will go.

One aspect that brought the problem of this home to me was reading the New Atheists. Just look at the arguments they make against God and Christianity. Now there are informed atheists who can make good arguments. The New Atheists were not those atheists. Those arguments sounded convincing to other atheists who did not study the issues. As someone who does study them, I saw them as embarrassing.

What if I was doing the same?

It was worse that by arguing science I did not understand, I was embarrassing myself. I was also embarrassing Christianity. I was giving the impression that being a Christian would mean that I knew everything and I would believe it even if my opinion was uninformed.

Hence, I came to do some more study. I also decided that my theistic arguments didn’t need to be built on grounds other than science. That’s fine. After all, science is not the final arbiter on if God exists or not or if miracles are true or not. I find the five ways of Aquinas do that for me.

I also have an interpretation of Genesis that doesn’t rely on science as well, which is that of John Walton. I think we in a scientific culture have too often assumed the Bible is speaking science because that is our culture, not realizing that it was not their culture. We need to try to understand the text the way that they would.

Again, I am not saying that you cannot debate evolution. If you are a scientist and can make the case, then by all means go for it. Maybe you’re right. I don’t know. I just know that I don’t want to go against a reigning paradigm in an area I am ignorant of, much like mythicists go after the reigning paradigm of history in an area they’re ignorant of. If you’re not trained in science, I invite you to join me on that. You don’t have to debate everything.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: What Is Man?

What do I think of Edgar Andrews’s book published by Elm Hill Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Edgar Andrews for sending me a copy of his book for a review. I am not a scientist, but I like to try to read books when they’re sent my way. I don’t always manage to, but I want to try. Still, it can be difficult for me to read scientific books because there’s so much terminology I’m not familiar with it and that has to be tied in with other terminology I’m not familiar with.

Andrews does take an approach many conservative Christians take which is to argue against evolution. Now as a non-scientist, I can look and think that that looks like a good point, but the reality is I just don’t know. I’m not a specialist in the field and I could show such to a friend who’s an evolutionary creationist and he could tell me various problems with it.

So can I really comment? Not at all. Andrews could be right. He could be talking nonsense. I really don’t know. I am skeptical since evolution does seem to be the reigning paradigm and not just with atheists but with a number of devout Christians as well.

So what can I comment on? I can comment on the Biblical data. When we get to the image of God, Andrews looks at the work of J.P. Moreland. Moreland is a great philosopher, but that is no reason to think he’s an Old Testament scholar. Andrews doesn’t think there’s much to the representational view, but based on the work of John Walton, I happen to think that it is the most persuasive view.

Andrews also says that when the New Testament says that God is love, it could also be taken to say Love is God. I have to disagree with this entirely. This is a great error I think of our age. Love does not have the nature of God. God has the nature of love. The two are not interchangeable. Love has often been a great idol of our day. To be fair, Andrews does say it can only be understood in reference to the character of God, but even then I disagree. God is necessary ontologically for us to love, but epistemologically we can know what love is without knowing who God is.

When we get to Jesus, I can’t say I necessarily support the use of prophecy. It is doable, but it takes some special skill to do it in our day and age. Andrews goes to a passage like Daniel 9:24-27. This is an excellent passage and I think fulfills Jesus down to the last detail and in precise manner, but sadly, it is also one of the most debated passages in the Old Testament. Unless you are skilled in this kind of argument, you are likely to be destroyed in the argument.

I also wish there would have been more interaction with scholars on the resurrection of Jesus. More of Habermas and Licona would have been good. Perhaps Andrews should co-write with another and he does chapters on science and a historian does the chapters on the New Testament?

So in the end, there could be a lot of good stuff on science, but I just don’t know. I appreciate the passion and zeal Andrews has for Jesus, but I don’t think the arguments in the Bible section are the best. I agree with Andrews’s conclusion on what man is, but I don’t know enough to evaluate the arguments.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/22/2018: Tim O’Neill

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Atheists often pride themselves on being people of reason. They only believe something based on evidence and they’re not gullible enough to buy into myths. Unfortunately, gullibility is part of human nature and one doesn’t get a free pass because they’re an atheist. Atheists many times do fall for myths and two of the greatest ones they fall for are the ideas that Jesus never even existed and that the so-called Dark Ages was a science stopper.

Sadly, a lot of atheists have a tendency to do what many Christians also sadly do, and that’s to not inform themselves of arguments on the other side. If that is the case, how can we convince them that these are great myths? Perhaps we could do it by having one of their own speak to them.

Thankfully, one atheist is on a mission to do just that. One atheist is out there standing tall against the wave of bad history coming from internet atheists and saying that while he agrees with them on the question of God and the resurrection of Jesus, they are wrong here and they need to acknowledge that. He has gone so far with this that he has created a website of history for atheists. In a Deeper Waters first, I’m hosting this atheist on my show this Saturday. His name is Tim O’Neill.

So who is he?

I am an atheist, sceptic and rationalist who is a subscribing member of the Atheist Foundation of Australia and a former state president of the Australian Skeptics. I have contributed to many atheism and scepticism fora over the years and have a posting record as a rationalist that goes back to at least 1992. I have a Bachelors Degree with Honours in English and History and a research Masters Degree from the University of Tasmania, with a specialisation in historicist analysis of medieval literature.

As a rationalist, I believe strongly that people should do all they can to put emotion, wishful thinking and ideology aside when examining any subject and that they should acquaint themselves as thoroughly as possible with the relevant scholarship and take account of any consensus of experts in any field before taking a position. Which is why I began this blog in October 2015. After over ten years of seeing supposed “rationalists”, most of them with no background in or even knowledge of history, using patent pseudo history as the basis for arguments against and attacks on religion, I felt someone needed to start correcting the popular misconceptions about history which are rife among many vocal atheist activists. I also felt there needed to be some push-back by a fellow unbeliever against several fringe theories and hopelessly outdated ideas which have no credibility among professional scholars and specialists, but which seem to be accepted almost without question by many or even most anti-theistic atheists. “History for Atheists” has grown out of these convictions. In the years since I began this blog I have won a number of fans and supporters, but also gained a few detractors and hecklers. That’s the nature of the rough and tumble of the internet. If this is your first visit here I would ask you to try to put assumptions, a priori positions, and emotional preferences to one side and look objectively at the evidence and arguments I present. If we preach objectivity and dispassionate, well-informed rational analysis to others, we need to be prepared to practice these things ourselves. And remember that it’s usually only by discovering we have been mistaken about something that we can learn something new.

I hope you’ll be listening as we hear an atheist come on and talk about what his fellow atheists are getting wrong in history. Tim and I differ on several things after all, but we are united in this and I have turned to his site many times as a reference for atheists. Please also consider going on iTunes and leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/8/2018: Greg Cootsona

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Do any apologetics for awhile and you will find adults who talk about science as disproving Christianity. Because they invested in science, they came to see that religion is bogus. However, if you want to get an adult that thinks that way, don’t be surprised if you first have a teenager that thinks that way.

Sadly, the church can often be the culprit.

The church can often go to young people and tell them they can either believe science or the Bible. So, they look at these teenagers who often drive to church in cars and enter buildings with modern light and air conditioning and when these kids look up from their iPhones, they’re told that either science or Christianity is true. Geez. Which one are they going to go with?

Now I am not a scientist, and I don’t even play one on TV, and I have often decided that I won’t say yea or nay on science issues. I do not debate evolution, for example. If evolution falls, let it fall because it’s hypothetically bad science, but it’s not my call to say if it is bad science. Still, I find the history of science and the interplay between science and religion quite fascinating.

So does Greg Cootsona. He also has a great concern for our young people, especially the millennials, who are falling away from Christianity and often times, it’s because of science issues. How can we best reach these people? What steps should we take to interact with them? Is it really true that science and Christianity aren’t the polar opposites they’re seen to be?

But before that, let’s ask a more basic question.

Who is Greg Cootsona?

According to his bio:

Greg Cootsona directs Science and Theology for Emerging Adult Ministries (or STEAM), a $2 million grant funded by the John Templeton Foundation and housed at Fuller Seminary to catalyze the engagement of faith and science in Christian ministries with 18-30 year olds. He also is also Lecturer in Religious Studies and Humanities at Cal State Chico. He has written Mere Science and Christian Faith: Bridging the Divide with Emerging AdultsCreation and Last Things: At the Intersection of Theology and Science, and C. S. Lewis and the Crisis of a Christian. Greg served for 18 years as Associate Pastor for Adult Discipleship at Bidwell Presbyterian Church in Chico and Fifth Avenue Presbyterian in New York City. Greg has written for several periodicals such as the Wall Street Journal and Christianity Today online;has been interviewed by CNN, the Wall Street Journal, BBC,and The New York Times; has spoken at university campuses throughout the United States such as Columbia and Rice Universities; andhas appeared on the Today Show three times. He and his wife, Laura, live in Chico and have two emerging adult daughters. Besides hanging out with his family, he loves to bike, read (and write), and drink good coffee.

I’m looking forward to this discussion and I hope you are too. Please also consider going on iTunes and leaving a positive review for the Deeper Waters Podcast. It means so much to me to see them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 26

Is ID caught in the vise? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The good news as we return to Glenton Jelbert’s work is that this is the final science chapter before moving to history. (Well, good news for me at least.) The bad news is this is probably the most tedious chapter in the book as Jelbert responds to the claims of William Dembski. Dembski in this one is speaking of putting a naturalist in an intellectual vise. I think Jelbert treats this uncharitably as he implies Dembski is like an inquisitor applying torture. Dembski is more of a lawyer grilling the opposing witness.

As I have said, I am not a supporter of ID, but I am a supporter of good argumentation. So what is said?

Jelbert at one point says we cannot find design in nature because that would be looking at nature that is not nature, but this is begging the question. It is saying that nature is undesigned and if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be nature, but who says this is so? I can hold to design, but not in the ID sense, but in that of classical teleology.  Can Jelbert demonstrate that nature has no design to it? Dembski may mean something different, but for me, I mean order and that is relatively abundant. Per Edward Feser’s classic example, an iceberg floating through the water makes any water around it colder. It does not turn it into cotton candy.

Jelbert also says there is no precise criteria that tells you what science is and isn’t. Surely this is not so! For one, we can say that science deals with what is material in nature. We do not need to do an experiment everyday to see if 1 + 1 = 2. This is true for all times and all places. When it comes to metaphysical questions, such as God, science is not much help. It’s the opposite. Science needs the grounding of metaphysics to be of use.

Jelbert also says that methodological naturalism is saying that science should limit itself to material causes. No evidence is given for this claim. Why should I accept it? Furthermore, isn’t Jelbert again begging the question? If the cause of an event is non-miraculous, such as God for instance, then science will be unable to find the answer and NOT lead us to the truth.

I have no problem with wanting to try to find material causes first, but if evidence builds up that something extra-material has acted, then we should accept it. Not only that, this I think puts much of science in a bind. As a theist, I can happily accept evolution and if God did it that way, that’s how He did it. For the naturalist, it HAS to be a materialistic process like evolution. Note that I am not arguing against evolution in saying this. I am saying as Alvin Plantinga says, for the naturalist, it’s the only game in town.

It is true that some Christians see evolution as a killer to Christianity, but I think this is highly mistaken. On the other hand, evolution is often seen as a necessary staple for atheism. As Dawkins says, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. Who then has the most at stake? Prove evolution to me and I go to church just fine the next Sunday. Disprove it to an atheist and could there be a major gap in their worldview?

Jelbert also says that numerous tests have been done to try to disprove materialism such as the efficacy of prayer and the experiments have failed. Later on, Jelbert will say excuses are made such as “We can’t test God.” Well, yeah. We can’t.

The problem with the prayer experiments is not bad science I think so much as bad theology. It is saying that if God is real, then He will respond in such and such a way to prayer. How do we know this? God could have any number of reasons for healing someone or for not healing someone and God is under no obligation to answer X number of prayers. There are so many variables I never consider such things reliable.

Yet you have someone like Craig Keener produce his massive work on miracles, and this gets no interaction. These are cases where I think one can justifiably think an extramaterial agent has interacted. Note this again is a problem for the atheist. If all of Keener’s examples were disproven, theism would still be safe with metaphysical arguments and Christianity safe with the resurrection of Jesus. If atheism is true, none of the miracles can be true miracles.

Jelbert also says one of the problems with ID is it knew what it wanted to find before it started and did the work that way. Yet Jelbert says that there are many clues to materialistic pathways to the origin of life. He has also said earlier that science should be limited to materialistic causes. If it is wrong to assume an extramaterial cause, it is not just as wrong to assume a material cause? Note I am not saying that there is no material explanation for the origin of life. I am saying that isn’t Jelbert guilty of what he is condemning ID for? This is especially ironic since Jelbert says a problem with ID is that it claims to know an origin event with certainty.

Again, I think this is a tedious chapter and doesn’t flow well at all. I don’t think Jelbert has made the case and if anything, he has far more at stake than I do. Modern science is great, but it is not something to build a worldview on. I consider it better to go with metaphysics and I think that is firmly in the theist camp.

Now I eagerly look forward to getting into the history around Jesus.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Evidence Considered: Part 25

Is ID qualifying as a science? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s been awhile since we’ve looked at Jelbert’s book, but now it’s time to do so again. In this chapter, we’re looking at his response to Bruce Gordon. Gordon has contributed a chapter on the scientific status of inferences to design.

I am not a supporter of the ID movement, but at the same time, I wish to try to remain fair. Are some criticisms of it invalid? As we will go through this chapter, I will demonstrate that I think that while ID hasn’t made its case, neither has Jelbert with his criticism.

One big problem is Jelbert is talking about methodological naturalism, but this is never defined. What is meant by this? The term can be difficult to talk about. Also, we don’t want to confuse methodological naturalism with metaphysical naturalism. If we say that absolutely nothing miraculous can happen in history, then we are begging the question. This doesn’t mean that we just throw in a miracle every now and then when we can’t explain something. It does mean that we remain open.

Jelbert also says that some sciences do look for an agent, but these are not agencies in the abstract. I don’t think this follows. We can find in anthropological studies an artifact and know it was designed. Perhaps and most likely it was designed by humans, but maybe, though I am skeptical, it was designed by an extraterrestrial agent. This is a pure hypothetical, but either way, we could tell it was designed.

Furthermore, would Jelbert says it was suddenly valid if I said the agent I was looking for was the Trinity of Christianity? Doubtful. All ID is saying is to look for signs of design. Even if we don’t know who the designer is, we can know that there is design.

At the end, Jelbert says that Gordon has not shown anything and his argument about who designed the designer and such leads to some problems with ID I have. If you make science king, you will never answer the God question yea or nay. You have to go to metaphysics so why not just start with metaphysics?

If we ask about who designed the designer, it first assumes the designer is complex, whereas if you talk about the God of Christianity, universally it has been held that ontologically God is simple, in that He has no parts. If that is the case, then He needs no designer.

Second, if complex things need a designer, then we can say the universe is complex so it needs a designer. If Jelbert wants to then say complex things don’t need one, then we could say if God is complex, which He is not, then He doesn’t need a designer. Jelbert can’t have it both ways.

This is also why I find Jelbert’s closing arguments weak. When I follow a good Thomistic metaphysic, I get to an eternal being who doesn’t change and so asking if He died at one point doesn’t work. It also does get past the problem of the infinite regress. I would really recommend Jelbert read some of the writings of Edward Feser at this point.

So I don’t agree with ID, but I can’t say Jelbert has provided a killing blow to it either.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Part 24

Does agency prove a problem for materialism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this entry, we’re looking at what Glenton Jelbert has to say about what Angus Menuge says about the role of agency in science. What it is saying is any there any goal-oriented behavior in the sciences? If so, then this is a problem for materialism as who is behind these goals?

I actually also disagree with the take of Menuge, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with Jelbert. Menuge is quick to jump to the Intelligent Design community. At this point I want to remind Christians that it was possible to make empirical arguments for the existence of God based on the observance of nature before Intelligent Design ever became a thing.

I have a great concern that too many of us are putting all of our eggs into the Intelligent Design basket and if that basket ever falls, well what then? As a Christian, I do believe there is an intelligent designer, but that doesn’t mean that I uphold the ideology behind Intelligent Design. I think it rests way too much on modern science that could be subject to change.

Why not go back in the past and see how people argued for God then and see if that includes agency? Two ideas come to mind. It won’t be a shock to readers of my work that both of them come from Aquinas.

The first relies on two kinds of causes in Aristotelian-Thomistic thought. The first one is known as the efficient cause and the second as the instrumental cause. Suppose you are building a house. You are the efficient cause of that house. You are the one behind it making it. Now what do you use to make it? Tools, cement, wood, brick, etc. Those are the instrumental causes. That through which you make something is an instrumental cause.

The problem is instrumental causes do not act on their own. There is someone that is behind them or something that is behind them. To say an instrumental cause can be its own cause is like saying a paintbrush can paint the picture itself if the handle is really long. A secondary cause works with the help of a primary cause.

Another way for Aquinas would be the fifth way. This one can be readily misunderstood. Some people think it is Intelligent Design, but it is not. All you need is a connection between A and B. If an iceberg floats through water and makes water around it consistently colder, you have this at work.

Why does this consistently happen? Acorns become oak trees and not puppy dogs. If you pull the bow back to fire the arrow, the arrow does not fly backwards. Planets do not go chaotic in their orbits but maintain a consistent pattern. These patterns are so consistent we can measure them accurately and predict major events with pinpoint accuracy. When we had the solar eclipse last year, everyone knew when it would be.

Aquinas reasons that it is because an eternal mind has put this into nature. The argument is much deeper than this. I recommend the work of Edward Feser on this. If you can’t afford his book Aquinas then you can go to his blogspot and read up on it.

Again, I find Glenton’s work lacking. The case for theism is still there and even if I don’t agree with one approach, there is still another that works.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Mere Science and Christian Faith

What do I think of Greg Cootsona’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am not a scientist, but I am always interested in books about the intersection between science and religion. When IVP sent me this one, it was one I was eager to read. Cootsona’s book is different in some ways. It’s not so much because of content, but because of the approach.

Cootsona writes his book largely with emerging adults in mind, the kind of people we would call millennials. These are young people who have a lot of questions about science and religion. What is the relationship between the two? Is there conflict or dialogue or what?

Cootsona answers these questions and often shows information on the side about conversations that he’s had with young people and little statements that they say. People involved in youth ministry need to be reading something like this. These are the very issues that young people are dealing with and as Cootsona sadly shows at the end, many people walk away because they committed the great sin of asking questions.

Cootsona deals with questions not only about creation and evolution, but also about technology. What are the effects that it’s having on society? There is some good of course, but there is also some bad. Are we having too much screen time? Could we actually bear to put the phones down?

He also spends some time with the new atheists. For the most part, the new atheists aren’t really an issue any more, but the mind set is still there. Dawkins is still seen as being on the side of science and religion is seen as the opposite. This leaves many people wondering if they have to choose between science and religion. It doesn’t help Christians out when we tell young people that they just need to have faith and not bother with their questions.

Some of you might be wondering if in all of this if Cootsona has a high view of Scripture. He does. Cootsona upholds orthodoxy and upholds inerrancy in the book. He presents viewpoints to help people understand the questions such as evolution and the age of the Earth. It’s a snapshot in the book as it were, but in the back he provides resources for further study. Cootsona’s book is meant to be an introduction to the questions. It is not an end-all.

There is also a section on climate change and sexuality. Now I am a skeptic of the idea of climate change. I haven’t invested in the study, but I am skeptical. Still, there is good information to consider here even if I am not convinced. As for sexuality, our changing approach to sexual culture is going to need to be addressed. How do we answer questions about transgenderism and homosexuality? Is Christianity behind the times?

These questions about science and Christianity are entirely relevant today. I get many questions from Christians with doubt today. If there is any topic that seems to come up the most, it is questions about Genesis 1-11. It is amazing how many people contact me and say they’re scared that Christianity might not be true and yet they have no questions about the resurrection. It’s all about Genesis. We need better resources on this.

Youth ministers then should definitely read this book! If you’re not a scientist, that’s okay. It’s written in a style laymen can understand. Parents concerned about teenagers and college-age students should read this book. Young people themselves searching should also read it.

Cootsona has given us a good gateway book to the issue of science and Christianity. He has also sounded a clarion call that we need to be listening to the emerging adults today to know how to better reach them. We can answer all the questions we want to, but if we don’t answer the questions they’re asking, we don’t get them any closer to Jesus.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Rationality Rules On The Unmoved Mover

Is the unmoved mover a bad argument? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been dialoguing with an atheist via text message a local pastor told me about. Last night, we were talking about Aquinas’s argument for the unmoved mover. He wanted to send me a video arguing against it to get my thoughts. He told me the video was by someone who went by “Rationality Rules.” I have noticed that so many people who identify themselves by rationality or reason or logic often honor the idea with their lips, but their heads are far from it. I asked him to send it so I could see it. It can be found here.

Fortunately, it comes with a long description to show many of the main points. I found it amusing that towards the start we have Aquinas and Peter Kreeft both having dunce hats put on their heads. Yes. Aquinas, one of the greatest minds in Western civilization should have a dunce cap on. It’s amazing the arrogance that these guys have.

Anyway, RR says he’s not going to deal with Aquinas’s, but Kreeft’s, because, you know, the arguments are basically the same.

No, they’re not.

But hey, apparently it would be too hard to, you know, go and look online and actually read the original argument and actually work to understand it and see what it’s really arguing. Nope. Just go for someone you think is giving the argument. Kreeft is a wonderful philosopher, but here he is also speaking for laymen and not giving the argument in its full sophistication. Unfortunately, I think he also gets it wrong, but let’s see what is said.

Anyway, this is how RR sums up the argument syllogistically.

• Everything that exists is in motion.

• Everything in motion is caused to be in motion by something else.

• Something must’ve existed without a cause.

• We call this first-cause (or unmoved mover) god.

• Therefore, god exists.

This isn’t the argument.

For one thing, we have to ask what is motion. Motion is not just movement, but movement is a type of motion. All movement is motion but not all motion is movement, at least in the physical sense. We know this because Aquinas would talk about movement in angels and angels are not physical. Your atheist friend can say he doesn’t believe in angels. Irrelevant. Aquinas does and Aquinas knows they are not physical so his argument is not limited to the physical.

What is being talked about is potential becoming actuality. Potential is the capacity for change that something has. Actuality is the way that it is. I am sitting right now as I type this. I have the potential to stand, kneel, lie down, jump, etc. If I do any of those, such as stand, then I am actualized my potential to stand and from there, I have the potential again to sit.

This is indeed caused in some respect by another. I do something because I want something outside of myself, which is what would be called The Good. My will is driven towards this. Every one of us desires what we think of as The Good. We can disagree on what we think The Good is, but all of us do want it and when we do something, we are doing it for something we perceive to be a good.

Aquinas is also talking about objects that have no will. A hand moves a stick which moves a rock which moves a leaf. Remove any piece of the chain and the leaf doesn’t move.

So what is the cause of this change? Aquinas says we have to find what it is to avoid an infinite regress. What kind of regress is he talking about? It’s either per accidens or per se. In the former, suppose mine and Allie’s parents both die suddenly. Could we still have children together? Absolutely. All things being equal, there is nothing about our reproduction that is hindered or helped by our parents being alive. That is irrelevant.

Now consider a chain that’s more per se. Each event is dependent on what came before it. Consider a Rube Goldberg machine. That is what it is like. This is the point of Aquinas. This means that everything in the chain is being used as an instrument, but if there are secondary causes, there must be a primary cause. The chain has to find its origin somewhere.

Note that this is also not saying it has to start there chronologically, as the universe being eternal is at this point irrelevant to Aquinas. It’s saying that there must be some great source, such as a gear that all the other gears have to move around and if the big gear stops, the little ones do as well. For Aquinas though, this place where the buck stops must be unmoved itself. If it is not, then it is part of the chain and the chain still needs to be explained.

If we see anything that is in motion, then we need to explain that. That would include the universe because I think it’s quite uncontroversial to say the universe undergoes change. We can all agree to that one. What needs to be at the root is something unchanging in its nature.

RR says the first flaw with this argument is that it does not prove that Christianity is true.

It would not prove that this Unmoved Mover still exists, that it’s a being, that it’s conscious, or that it impregnated a virgin, in order to sacrifice itself to itself so that it could forgive you for your ancestors’ actions… or in other words, it would not prove that Kreeft’s very specific interpretation of the Christianity is true.

This is the common silly objection that so many atheists have. You have not proven that this God is the Christian God, therefore the argument fails. Yes. What a great rejoinder, except the argument was never meant to prove the Christian God. Aquinas knew this. Every defender of the argument knows it. Aquinas could use this argument, but so could the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides. So could the Muslim philosopher Avicenna. Put these three in a room together and they will not dispute this argument. They will agree to it. That’s when the disputes start. Who is this mover?

Also, to say that it doesn’t show the mover still exists is just fallacious because once Aquinas establishes God, he goes on to establish things that can be known about God from reason and natural theology and that includes His eternality and immutability among other things. People who argue against the argument like this are just intellectually lazy. Of course, we knew that when we saw the bad representation of the Trinity anyway.

The second fallacy is that of special pleading. Something must have existed without a cause. That’s not the argument though. It’s that something must have existed that is not in motion like everything else is. God is not moved by anything else. He moves all other things. Aquinas does say why as well. Special Pleading fails.

The last two objections deal with the Big Bang Theory. Unfortunately for RR, these are irrelevant. Aquinas’s argument is not about the origins of the universe. The Big Bang Theory could be disproven tomorrow and Aquinas would be unfazed. The universe could be shown to be eternal and Aquinas will still be standing. Aquinas would ask why you’re talking about all this stuff about how the universe came to be when his argument says nothing about that.

In conclusion, it will be good when RR deals with the real argument. If he wants to do so, I suggest for a good understanding he consider something like reading Edward Feser. Feser’s “Aquinas” would be a great introduction for him. As it stands, RR has dealt with a straw man and the dunce cap needs to be removed and put on the head of the rightful owner.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 23

Is there a problem with bad design? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Chapter 23 looks at work done by Jonathan Witt on the idea of bad design. I see this as a defensive work on Witt’s part. It’s not theism going on the offensive, but on the defensive. If theism is true, why do we see instances of what is thought to be bad design?

As a non-scientist and a non-IDist, there is not much for me to respond to. However, one point I do want to address is something Jelbert says about Witt’s work. Jelbert does show that Scripture speaks about creation as the work of God such as in Psalm 139, Genesis 1:31, and Romans 1:20. However, we must remember the Biblical authors are not blind. Yes. Humans are fearfully and wonderfully made, but they knew more about child mortality from experience than we do. When a child is born today, it’s generally assumed the mother will survive and that all things being equal, the child will grow up and live a natural life.

Not so for them. Many times a mother would die in childbirth and you would want to have many kids because not all of them would live long lives. The authors are not writing though to give an answer to the problem of evil, but because there is still something grand to them in creation.

Jelbert says that God’s involvement appears to be capricious. Things look to be callous and random. Events happen that do no good and bring no redemption and don’t appear to fulfill a grand plan. They do not show that God is in charge of this drama. Jelbert says Witt will fall on God’s mysteriousness again or some other divine attribute.

Let’s notice something here. Not a single objection here is scientific. It is all theological. It is saying that if the God of the Bible existed or even the God of classical theism, He would not allow this or there is no good reason why He should allow it. How is this known? Where does Jelbert get this theological knowledge?

Something else sad about this is that this is part of the logical problem of evil that even the majority of atheist philosophers will admit has been answered. Alvin Plantinga did it decades ago with a little book called God, Freedom, and Evil. It’s important to note that one does not need to demonstrate the answer to why a certain event happened. One has to show that it is just possible that God has a good reason for allowing it. We don’t have to know what that reason is. Jelbert has the burden of proof here. It’s up to him to show that there is no good reason for this to happen.

Jelbert can call it a cop-out to say God is mysterious or something like that, but why think any of us should know all that God knows? If God is real, He has far more knowledge than we could ever have of why events are happening. Jelbert has simply said that things seem a certain way. He has to demonstrate it or else his argument fails.

Now he could go another route and say that it seems unlikely that a good God would exist and that is something else altogether, but it is no longer the hard case. If he went that route, I would reply with the Thomistic arguments, which are not addressed in the book it looks like, and of course the resurrection of Jesus, which we will get to later. I just have to answer one and it is not a deductive argument. The Thomistic arguments are deductive and thus more powerful.

I walk away from this chapter unconvinced. Jelbert has not demonstrated his theological claims. It’s interesting that in a section purported to be about science, we have more about theology instead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters